More than 550 people took to the streets of Tanzania’s biggest city recently to protest the trade in ivory. The “Walk for Elephants” march was co-organized by the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania and the Tanzania-China Friendship Promotion Association. Demonstrators, including the Chinese ambassador and many from the city’s Chinese community, walked five kilometers and called for the protection of elephants.
Tanzania is an epicenter of the African elephant-poaching crisis. In 2015, a government census suggested the country had lost 60 percent of its elephants to poaching in just five years. Elephants are mainly poached for their tusks, which are turned into ornate ivory carvings. Investigations into the trade have pointed to China as the leading destination for poached tusks. The Chinese community in Africa is determined to turn around the negative perception of their country.
Many Tanzanian celebrities and activists also took part in the march. WildAid ambassador and singer Ben Pol called for Tanzanians to support the movement against poaching. The walk followed a December Chinese government announcement that it will close its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017. The decision has been hailed by conservationists as a game changer for the ivory trade.
“The ban is very important, because for those who facilitate and support killers of elephants, they will now get a message that the market is gone, so why go for killing an elephant,” said Elisifa Ngowi, a top intelligence officer with the PAMS Foundation, a conservation NGO in Tanzania. Ngowi was responsible for leading a task force that has arrested hundreds of poachers, including Yang Feng Glan dubbed the “Queen of Ivory” who has been charged with smuggling at least 706 elephant tusks.
The Chinese ambassador said his government was committed to supporting the Tanzanian government in their continued fight against poaching in the country. He hopes to make the march an annual event.