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Govt ready to join UN in LRA poaching probe

28th December 2012
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Khamis Kagasheki

THE government has expressed its readiness to work with the United Nations in probing the alleged involvement of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the poaching of African tuskers and smuggling of ivory.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism yesterday said Tanzania welcomes the call by Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), John Scanlon, on investigation of LRA involvement in the poaching of African elephants and smuggling of ivory.

Signed by the minister, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, the statement said the call underpins the anxiety about the links between illicit wildlife poaching and trafficking with regional insecurity on the continent.

African States, he said, are currently experiencing a serious increase in the illegal killing of African elephants and rhinos and the related illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn.

The illegal killings of a large number of elephants for their ivory is increasingly involving organised crime and in some cases well-armed militias, according to CITES.

Poached ivory in the Great Lakes region and Central Africa is believed to be exchanged against money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in neighbouring countries, says CITES.
Ambassador Kaghasheki said Tanzania is ready to work with the UN to support efforts to investigate the involvement of the rebel militias in wildlife poaching.

“Tanzania believes that, the envisaged investigation will identify the barons of elephant tusks trade and their modus operandi. This will augur well with Tanzania’s efforts in curbing poaching in our territory,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, the Tanzania government is currently in talks with international stakeholders in a move to host an international conference on poaching next year.

Expected to convene all stakeholders affected by the unprecedented wave of poaching for ivory and rhino horns in Africa, the meeting would seek ways to solve the problem that has been growing in the region over the period.

The Security Council last week called on the United Nations and the African Union to jointly investigate the LRA logistical networks and possible sources of illicit financing, including alleged involvement in elephant poaching and related illicit smuggling.

The LRA has turned to ivory trafficking and also extended its area of operations, a UN Security Council meeting was told Tuesday, the statement said.

Mid this month the Tanzanian government announced that it has launched a crackdown to stem illegal animal poaching, particularly of elephant tusks, in the country.
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 the crackdown involves the police force, officials in various ministries whose functions directly relate to those of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the army and Interpol.

Wildlife 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.

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

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 agencies came from Tanzania, with neighbouring Kenya a close second, the agencies say.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN