The arrests followed an incident last week when an ANR patrol vehicle carrying rangers and other staff was attacked by a gang of more than 100 men believed to be artisanal miners. The gang placed huge logs in the vehicle’s path in an attempt to hijack it and harm its occupants.
Reporting the situation to Muheza district commissioner Mwanasha Tumbo over the weekend, ANR conservator Mwanaidi Kijazi said luckily, the driver managed to manoeuvre past the logs and speed away to safety.
“The passengers were forced to abandon the vehicle and run through the forest to a safer part of the reserve in Korogwe District,” Kijazi stated.
A police manhunt has been mounted for other suspected members of the gang apart from the 15 already in detention.
According to Kijazi, illegal mining, logging and other human activities that lead to occasional forest fires are posing a big threat to ANR which is also a water catchment area for River Zigi to supply the Tanga municipality and its environs.
“The human encroachment activities are especially notorious in the villages of Sakale, Kihara, Monga and Sangarawe,” she explained.
The ANR consists of tall unique forests and lowland forests within an area of 8,380 hectares spread across the two districts of Muheza and Korogwe. The 40-kilometre Amani proximity of the Indian Ocean is the wettest of all the East Usambara forest blocks, with at least 100 millimetres of rainfall in most months.
The reserve has exceptional conservation values that include a rain forest; biological diversity; endemic, endangered and threatened flora and fauna; water catchment and soil conservation values.
There are also historical sites like the famous Amani Botanical Garden, established in 1902, which has more than 1,000 species of plants from all over the world.
Its wildlife pedigree includes over a quarter of the 30-odd species of amphibians and reptiles, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.