TANZANIA PARLIAMENT TOLD OF 30 POACHED ELEPHANT A DAY
A report recently submitted to and discussed by parliament in Dodoma makes stark reading and confirms what has been rumoured for long, that the rate of poaching is way higher than Tanzanian officials have previously admitted.
During the period between 2006 and 2009 as many as 30.000 elephant, many from the poorly guarded Selous but generally right across the country and often under the very noses of law enforcement, have been slaughtered in a silent massacre, which casts a dark shadow over the countrys commitment to conservation.
The commercial scale killings continue unabated and experts think that as many as 30 elephant are now being killed a day, which would put the annual figure to a staggering 10.000+ and for which the chairman of the committee on land, natural resources and environment as well as the shadow minister for natural resources and tourism blasted the government. Committee chair James Lembeli was quoted to this correspondent to have said when talking about the ongoing wildlife massacres: The committee directs the government to address poaching issues in its entirety and stop poaching activities in the country while Peter Msigwa, shadow minister on the opposition benches for natural resources and tourism challenged the ministerial statement to the house by reportedly saying: It is a shame to hear the government say that poachers have a lot of money and use highly sophisticated methods, when we expect the government to ensure the security of the wild animals.
Tourism minister Ambassador Khamis Kagesheki had earlier on tried to put a positive spin on the situation when giving figures of patrols, in this context however seen as largely useless considering the scale of the elephant decline in Tanzania, while claiming that nearly 2.000 suspected poachers have been apprehended and those processed through court been fined nearly 175 million Tanzania Shillings.
It has generally been acknowledged in Eastern Africa that the current legislation is not able to cope with the commercial type poaching any longer and that crippling fines need to be combined with long jail sentences for those found poaching and those financing the activity and then attempting to smuggle the blood ivory out of the country. However, amendments to the respective laws have been slow in coming, often resulting in poachers getting bail and resuming their bloody handiwork literally on the same day, while fines are laughably small and jail sentences, if any, expressed in weeks or months rather than decades.
It has also been noted with growing concern that the respective governments are clearly downplaying the true extent of poaching within their jurisdiction and are not facilitating the anti poaching efforts of TANAPA, KWS and UWA to the extent needed to cope with the use of sophisticated communications gear now regularly found with poachers, nor their gang like structures and business like organisational set up.
Said a conservation source in Nairobi, on condition of anonymity: No names please, I do not want to get arrested too like my colleague from EcoTourism a few months ago, but to be honest, what we now face is the final battle to keep our wildlife alive. In Kenya we see a trend to fence parks and reserves and cut off migration, which is going to be very bad for the gene pool development in these areas. Wananchi take the law in their own hands because KWS does often react too slowly. We had lion killings, elephant killings and now new threats to kill elephant in the Narok area too. I personally hold politicians responsible for that. For one, the wildlife act should have been amended a long time ago to cater for higher fines and longer jail terms. Then KWS needs to be facilitated better in anti poaching, surveillance and exit point monitoring to capture illicit cargo. And those with political ambitions for next year who incite wananchi to spear lions and elephant should be taken to court and prosecuted. But importantly, KWS also needs to tell the truth no matter how bad the figures are, because by being slow in coming up with figures it opens them to criticism and then rumours start taking over from facts.
Meanwhile have other sources from Tanzania made a range of further allegations about a new hunting block being allocated to Middle Eastern royalty, where as many as 48.000 people are bracing for being driven off their ancestral land as a multinational company engaged in hunting, similar to events some time ago when in a similar deal people were beaten up, forcefully removed and their homesteads turned into ashes by security personnel while government big cats enjoyed the alleged pay offs while their compatriots were turned from self sustained herders into paupers. A petition has been started to provide the public shame going along with such questionable practises, in particular in the light of poaching figures now circulating in Tanzania, that the government would still sanction hunting, decimating threatened species even further for the proverbial 30 coins. Watch this space but also click on the petition link and sign: http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_maasai/?bBfKgdb&v=17109