The presence of a sophisticated network of rich people and fear by the public to engage in the practice of ‘naming and shaming’ of individuals engaging in poaching fuel illegal hunting in the country, the government has admitted.
The minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki mid this week put this point blank at a seminar for senior media personnel who attended a workshop in Iringa, organised by the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa).
“Poaching is depleting our valuable natural resources, especially elephants and rhinos in our game reserves and national parks. Very unfortunately, this business involves rich people who have formed a very sophisticated network,” the minister told news editors. The ministry was determined to combat poaching, including taking punitive measures against individuals suspected to be involved in the malpractices, irrespective of their social status, he stated.
If deliberate, concerted efforts are not taken by stakeholders, including the government, the media and the general public to expose individuals engaging in poaching, elephants and rhinos will be facing extinction in the nearest future.
Ambassador Kagasheki who was vividly angered and pained by experts’ reports on poaching of elephants and rhinos in the country, said it was high time the media and the general public named and shamed individuals engaging in poaching without fear.
“It’s now time to name and shame people engaging in this menace. Even if it is me, say it. We must fight against this scourge at all costs,” Kagasheki stressed.
The minister also raised concern on incidents whereby containers loaded with ivory are shipped to the Far East through the Dar es Salaam port in the presence of government-trusted officials.
“It is unconceivable for a container loaded with elephant teeth (tusks) to pass through the port in the presence of Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), customs and port officials undetected,” he said.
Mid-November last year Customs officers in Hong Kong seized 500 pieces of ivory tusks from Tanzania worth $1.4 million (Sh2.24 billion). The 500 pieces weighing 1,300 kilogrammes were found hidden in a shipping container that arrived in Asian country from Tanzania. That meant that a total of 250 elephants were killed in Tanzania in order to export 500 pieces of tusks, he said.
Earlier in 2011, officials seized a shipment of ivory and rhinoceros horns valued at $2.2 million Hong Kong dollars. Hong Kong is viewed as a transit point for the illegal ivory trade, feeding into increasing demand in China. The minister said plans were underway to procure surveillance, tracking and motoring equipment, including unmanned aircrafts to step up the security of wildlife in national parks. However, he could not give the time frame for implementing the plans.
Minister Kagasheki also announced that a world conference on poaching would be held in Tanzania in November this year to discuss the problem, including proposing solutions.
He said it was illogical for international conferences on poaching to be held abroad while the matter was being fought in a few African countries, Tanzania inclusive.
TANAPA Director General Allan Kijazi divulged information to news editors, saying poachers have now resorted to using more sophisticated weaponry, higher than those used by rangers. They have gone a step ahead to kill elephants with poisoned pumpkins.
He said TANAPA has taken several measures to fight poaching, including recruiting more rangers. However, he said media should play a pivotal role in exposing poachers through investigative journalism.
By Rodgers Luhwago, IPP Media, 16th June 2013