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Tanzania cracks down on illegal ivory poaching

17th December 2012
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Lazaro Nyalandu

The Tanzanian government has launched a crackdown to stem illegal animal poaching, particularly of elephant tusks, in the country, a senior official said on Friday.

The crackdown, which has been carried on for a number of weeks, now has nabbed a number of illegal elephant tusk dealers, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said in an interview, without divulging their number.

The crackdown involves the police force, officials in various ministries whose functions directly relates to those of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the army and Interpol.

Animal poaching, particularly of elephants has been on the increase in Tanzania -- the killers hunting them for their valuable tusks which are in high demand in Asian markets.

"I want to assure you that I won't sleep, and the Natural Resources and Tourism minister will not sleep until all the elephants and lions in the national parks and game reserves sleep undisturbed. This campaign is aimed at doing away with the problem of poaching once and for all," Nyalandu said.

The slaughter of elephants and the seizure of illegal ivory have soared to their highest levels in decades due to voracious market in Asia and chaotic wildlife protection in much of Africa have put elephant herds at risk throughout the continent, particularly in Central and East Africa.

Tanzania, one of the world's last great repositories of elephants, recently has been a key battleground. It is estimated that between 70,000 to 80,000 elephants are roaming in this nation's immense sanctuaries, amounting to perhaps a quarter of all African elephants.

It is estimated that in Tanzania 10,000 elephants are being slaughtered every year for their tusks.
According to reports from 2009 to 2011, the country was the leading exporter of illegal ivory in the world. Thirty-seven percent of all elephant tusks seized by law enforcement came from Tanzania, with neighboring Kenya a close second.

In October this year, customs officials in Hong Kong announced the seizure of nearly 4 tons of ivory hidden in two containers shipped from Indian Ocean ports in Tanzania and Kenya.

Late last month police officials in Tanzania succeeded in confiscating 214 elephant tusks and five elephant bones hidden in several fertiliser bags near Dar es Salaam.
Authorities explain that, taken together, these elephant body parts could worth roughly 1.32 million U.S. dollars on the black market.

Moreover, it is quite likely that the individuals trafficking them had some very specific customers in mind, seeing how all of the tusks were handpicked to be quite big and in good shape.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN