There is no doubt that we are seeing some encouraging measures against poachers out to destroy our wildlife due to unprecedented greed.
Latest actions have involved the arrest of four persons in Dar es Salaam found in possession of 214 elephant tusks and five bones, a collection worth some 2.2bn/- while in Ruvuma police arrested five people for possession of six elephant tails worth around 144m/- (USD 90,000) found stashed away in maize bags.
The suspects were arrested following a tip from ‘Good Samaritans’ who informed the police of a house where the stolen government trophies were hidden.
When police raided the premises they found the alleged trophies, plus of course other stolen items. The tusks were wrapped in plastic bags bearing the National flag.
The elephant tails were reportedly stashed away in maize bags in the truck which was supposed to be transporting maize from Hanga Monastery in Namtumbo district to Dar es Salaam.
We sincerely commend the police for the good work, but think that more needs to be done urgently at the source to put an end to the evil trade.
Two things are clear from the above developments and the reported impounding of ivory tusks in Hong Kong, China.
One is the admission by the government that poaching is on the increase, fuelled by an upsurge in foreign demand of the elephant tusk, tooth and tail, that is highly tempting to the criminals.
Recent figures had it that a kilo of the trophies now fetched around USD 1,000 from the previous USD 100, a huge jump, that proves how determined the poaching gangs are to get the items, no matter what.
That the upsurge in activity, finds authorities only now moving to train more game wardens and equip them better to protect the wild animals from the poaching rings.
The sad reality is that when we arrest the poachers and agents transporting the trophies from the parks to some final destination, the harm has already been done.
In the case of the Dar es Salaam haul, if all the 214 tusks came from within our game reserves, it means the nation has already lost more than 100 elephants to the poacher’s bullet or poison, in a short span of time.
Are we doing enough to arrest the tragic consequences that surely await our big game, but particularly, the elephant, given the unending appetite for its tusks, teeth and tails?
We say so aware that the government is seeking to sensitise the international community to help the country raise more resources to strengthen the fight against the now more deadly poacher, who is backed by gangs of criminals all the way to the Asian markets.
We are indeed witnessing a repeat of the situation back in the late 80s and 90s, when the government was forced to call in the army to fight against the new generation of poachers, who used more lethal weapons to kill elephants and the less well armed game wardens.
We believe that many an elephant life was saved by the action. We should not hesitate to repeat the exercise, any mistakes made then, and focusing on saving the jumbo.