Major blood ivory bust comes to light


(Posted 13th July 2016)

Only now is information beginning to emerge from Tanzania that a combined operation of Interpol, Tanzanian and regional police forces seize in late June over 660 pieces of ivory. The loot is worth nearly 2 million US Dollars at current market prices. Nine people, including one Ugandan and two Guineans were arrested alongside their Tanzanian accomplices during the swoop.
It again goes to show that President John Magufuli’s government is delivering on the campaign promise to come down hard on poaching and ivory smuggling and going by recent verdicts from courts across the country can the culprits, once found guilty in a court of law, expect anywhere between 20 years to life in prison.
Tanzania, under former President Jakaya Kikwete, had become a killing ground for elephants with tens of thousands slaughtered for their tusks with the Selous and the Ruaha protected areas the hardest hit.
Few arrests were made under the former regime, soiling Tanzania’s previously outstanding conservation reputation around the world, giving room to accusations that the ivory trade had reached into the highest offices and across politics and business. It was only in the dying weeks and days of the Kikwete presidency, when John Magufuli already held the key to State House in his hand, that some major arrests were made with court cases either still ongoing or completed.
Notably did former Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Amb. Khamis Kagesheki draw up a list of the allegedly 300 most tarnished names in connection with poaching and ivory smuggling but no action was ever taken by former President Kikwete other than soon afterwards relieving Kagesheki of his ministerial post. This again at the time prompted a flood of allegations how the ivory poaching gangs were able to operate with near impunity as no action was taken against them other than some cosmetic arrests of lowly gunslingers found in possession of rifles, ammunition and small quantities of blood ivory.

While serious discontent continues to widen the rift between tourism private sector and government over the imposition of an 18 percent value added tax, which has led to thousands of cancellations already of tourists not willing to pay hundreds of dollars extra, have conservation and tourism sources widely hailed the government and security forces for this latest crackdown on poaching.