The government has been urged to empower economically people living near game reserves in order to protect them from engaging in illegal ivory trade.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam yesterday an environmentalist, Sudi Kilasara, said the government has done little in supporting some areas, resulting in the people to engage in illegal ivory trade.
Giving an example, he said illegal trade has been conducted in Mloka village, Rufiji district, in Coast region, which is near Selous game reserve because the government did not provide enough support to the people.
“I have been visiting Mloka for a number of years. The village does not have enough water, health facilities or schools, hence its economy is low compared to other villages,” he said.
He noted that lack of economic activities has forced people to engage in illegal ivory trade with some agents.
“If the government wants to reduce such acts it should introduce income-generating activities for the people,” he said.
He said elephant poaching threatens Tanzania’s economy, which is annually earning millions of dollars from tourist activities.
Kilasara also urged the judiciary to take stern measure against people caught with illegal ivory. He said many cases involving illegal ivory dealers take long to complete and the culprits are fined very little or jailed for very short periods.
For his part, animal advocacy stakeholder Martin Kizamali said if the government will delay in taking stern measures against elephant poaching it might tarnish the international image of the country.
He said in the year 2010 the government was barred from selling ivory stocks due to its failure to protect elephants.
A Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting banned Tanzania from selling its ivory to the Far East because it did not contain illegal ivory trade.
The US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in the year 2010 visited Tanzania and Zambia and returned with harrowing first-hand evidence documenting a flourishing trade in illegal ivory in both countries.