Hong Kong blood ivory seizure triggers ministerial response in Dar es Salaam


When the latest blood ivory shipment was seized in Hong Kong last week, no nonsense Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Khamis Kagesheki, unlike on the last occasion a few weeks earlier, did not call into doubt that the source named by the Hong Kong authorities was indeed Tanzania.

Back then, probably on advice of senior ministry staff, the minister was quick to denounce the origin as mere speculation, only to be ambushed within days when the Hong Kong authorities issued international arrest warrants for three Tanzanians wanted in connection with the confiscated shipment.

This time Kagesheki was swift in accepting the facts and true to his nature, shown ever since his appointment to the job earlier in the year, left no doubt where he wanted to take the investigations: ‘This is very disturbing news indeed, I have already discussed the issue with the Inspector General of Police and we are dispatching a small team of trusted experts to Dubai and Hong Kong to assess the papers and follow it up to discover those involved’. The minister went on to say he had discussed related issues already with cabinet colleagues in order to put into place measures to stop poaching and arrest those involved, middlemen and financiers included before adding:’ If such a container full of elephant tusks can leave the port unnoticed, then the country is in grave danger. This proves that even weapons can be sneaked into the country’, raising the alarms by using smart comparisons to finally trigger what is hoped a major government offensive against the menace of poaching, which going by the latest reports is now standing at well over 30 elephant a day.

Kagesheki will according to a regular and usually well informed source also invite the Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania to discuss the underlying reasons for the increase in poaching in Tanzania, the demand by the Chinese domestic market for ivory, and what measures to take to combat it in China through stricter laws and enforcement of existing rules and regulations. The minister reportedly also conceded that these latest discoveries were not helpful in advancing the country’s request to CITES for a one off permission to sell up to 100 tons of ivory held in store in Tanzania, supposedly from legal origins and not from poaching. In this regard there also seems to be a shift from previously vague statements over the use of the proceeds, with deep background information now suggesting that all of such cash generated could be dedicated to anti poaching and park management use, whereas in the past Tanzania was evading this question, raising speculation that such money could end up in the general fund and be used for non conservation related expenditure. Watch this space as the current investigation gathers momentum.