Tons of blood ivory seized in port of Zanzibar


(Posted 14th November 2013)

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagesheki, was swift to drop whatever he was doing yesterday to travel to Zanzibar’s main island of Unguja when news broke that a container load of blood ivory had been seized by authorities at port. The find comes only a day after Tanzania’s tourism industry, through the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, had demanded that government immediately resume ‘Operation Tokomeza’ though privately key stakeholders did admit that a change of focus of the operations on the ground was urgently required to target the main poaching areas in the Selous and Ruaha National Park and shift attention from pastoralists – who by and large coexist with wildlife – to the commercial poaching gangs, their financiers and the middle men who facilitate shipments like the one now confiscated.

Only days prior had President Kikwete addressed parliament in Dodoma on this issue and defended the operation as necessary though ineptly handled and conservation and tourism sources now hope for a swift resumption of the operation without any delays, though under closer guidance from tourism minister Kagesheki, who enjoys wide support and respect for his general no nonsense approach to lazy and corrupt officials.

No specific details could be obtained inspite of ongoing efforts to obtain the number of tusks or the overall weight of the shipment, but the last major one seized in 2011 – since then small finds had been made – contained over 1.000 tusks representing over 500 slaughtered elephant. ‘This find is evidence enough, as if we needed any more evidence, that Tokomeza must continue immediately. You are right when you write about the need to shift focus and hit the gangs and not the Masai herders, for them another solution must be found but they are part and parcel of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and have been treated abysmally in the early stages of anti poaching operations. I think some officials just let their own grudges and frustrations take over and those need to be punished. But with the right direction of this operation, much can be accomplished and if President Kikwete is good for his word, then the war on poaching can finally begin for real’ wrote a regular Arusha based conservation source when sending the details of the ivory seizure late yesterday.

Tanzania has in the past been named as one country with the arguably worst poaching record and an estimated loss of more than 10.000 elephant a year, a dark spot on the reputation of a country which under founder president Julius Mwalimu Nyerere was a solid rock for nature conservation and the protection of the environment. Watch this space.

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