About 30,000 elephants are slaughtered every year, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to data from the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Tanzania is losing 30 elephants daily to poaching.
The Minister for Natural resource and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki has already noted that the situation on the ground tells that the remaining elephants in the country are in danger of being completely wiped out if urgent measures are not taken.
“We must act now. The situation on the ground is alarming and intolerable,’’ says Kagasheki as he was officiating at the workshop organised by TANAPA to News Editors in the country which was held in Iringa region recently.
During the workshop, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Environment, James Lembeli cautions that if serious measures are not implemented, elephants will disappear in the near future.
“Our grandsons and daughters will see these animals through pictures only as they will not be there to see them physically,’’ cautions Lembeli
However, the current statistics from International Union for Conservation of Nature shows that the total world elephant population is about 423,000, down from about 1.3 million in 1979.
The issue which brings more shock is that, these poachers do use advanced and sophisticated weapons such as automatic firearms with silencers and advanced telescope to conduct their illegal activities.
It has been reported that some poachers are using Global Position System (GPS) to know the areas frequented by certain animals species which are highly on demand and later on lay out strategies to poach them.
While poachers are being reported to use advanced technological equipments to fulfill their missions, the government has not yet invest much in applying science and technology to combat poaching in national parks and game reserves.
Wildlife conservation experts in the country have already advised the government to apply modern science and technology in conserving wild animals, particularly the endangered species.
During their separately exclusive interview with this paper, some of the experts noted that in the current modern and technology era, there is no need of applying traditional methods of protecting wild animals which have also proved failure.
“We need to have modern tools and methods which can give a clear picture of what is going on in various animal reserves then report to the responsible authorities without the necessarily physical presence of the officers,’’ said Prof Ramadhan Senzota a specialised expert on wildlife conservation at the University of Dar es Salaam.
He says to address the problem there is a need of attracting more investors into the sector, reasoning that by doing so the government can get assistance in protecting the animals from the investors as the latter’s business prosperity depends on the wildlife.
“These investors will also bring along modern ways of protecting the wildlife,” he suggested.
For his part, former expert in wildlife conservation from the University of Dar es salaam, Prof Hossea Kayumbo says the poor technological means of protecting the animals has enabled the poachers to fulfill their missions easily.
“Currently things are not the same because the demand for ivory is far higher and that is why poachers are doing any thing they can to get what they want including using high technology. So apart from enforcing the current wildlife protection laws or thinking of reviewing them we need invest more in technology,’’ he notes.
However, the government has noted that currently is in process to apply more advanced means of protecting the national parks and game reserves. This will include the purchase new helicopters which will enable those responsible in protecting and conserving the animals to operate easily.
The government’s intention has been noted in Dar es Salaam recently by the Principal Game Officer from the Ministry of Natural resource and Tourism, John Kaaya during his exclusive interview with the writer of this feature.
According to him the use of high technology in protecting and conserving animals especially the endangered ones has been delayed by unavailability of enough resource which would enable the government to use satellite, drones and other technological means of protecting the animals.
“Although advanced technology will help a lot in wildlife conservation, however, it can not change human behavior. In this case, we must invest in educating wildlife managers to know how to use new technology,’’ he says
He further adds that the government has already employed at least 400 new game wardens as a way of cubing the existing shortage of human resource in various national parks and game reserves.
TANAPA Director General, Allan Kijazi admits that the situation is much more alarming this time because there are now fewer elephants than was before.
“It is high time now that International Community offers necessary support in anti- poaching campaigns because over the past few years wildlife trafficking has become more organised , more lucrative, more widespread and more dangerous than ever before,’’
According to him elephants and rhino poaching has become an issue of both national and economic security for nations across Africa. “So we feel the need for strategic alliance of conservation institutions and supporters to break the deadlock and find consensus.,’’
“We therefore raise our voices to ask individuals, non-governmental organizations, media practitioners, politicians, institutions and government to join hands now because in so doing, we will save the lives of these important species for the future generations,’’ he begs
On the first day of his official state visit to Tanzania this year, United States of America President, Barack Obama signed an executive order to spend 10/- ml USD in Africa to help protect endangered animals, track poachers and bring organized crime syndicates that deal in trafficking of illegal animal parts to justice.
He also announced that the U.S would appoint an employee of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to Tanzania to help track illegal shipments, most of which leave from Tanzania ports such as Dar es Salaam.
However, recently it has been reported that U.S became the first developed country to destroy its stock of seized ivory, a move being widely lauded by conservation groups pushing for an outright ban on domestic ivory sales.
“Efforts like this are motivated by social change, and through this destruction the U.S. government is saying that ivory has no value – that it is a shameful product,” notes Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“As long as ivory can be openly purchased, there will be an opportunity for illegal ivory to be laundered."
“In order for any lasting change to take place, we need to see consumer demand go away, and making ivory products be seen as shameful is the way to address this problem.” He adds
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service crushed some six tonnes of African and Asian elephant ivory, the result of seizures that have taken place mostly over the past 25 years. Importing commercial or private ivory of any kind is a criminal act under U.S. law, unless the item has been certified by an international group, although its domestic sale remains legal.
The US government says the destroyed ivory, which includes both full tusks and carved items, likely represented “a couple thousand” dead elephants, and notes this figure could be far higher.
“We want to send a clear message that the United States will not tolerate ivory trafficking and the toll it is taking on elephant populations, particularly in Africa,” the Fish and Wildlife Service notes in a factsheet released ahead of the recent ivory crush.
“Destroying this ivory tells criminals who engage in poaching and trafficking that the United States will take all available measures to disrupt and prosecute those who prey on and profit from the deaths of these magnificent animals.”
Grant Harris, who is a senior director for Africa for the U.S National Security Council, recently noted that the rhinoceros horns are now selling on the black market for a 60,000/- USD a kilo.
He further notes that ivory from elephants sells for 2,000/- USD a kilo and the illegal trade in ivory from both animals is between 7/-bn USD to 10/-bn USD a year.
According to TANAPA’s recent report, China has been blamed for controlling about 70 per cent of the illegal trade in ivory, while the U.S is the next largest consumer. Americans use ivory to make gun and knife handles and as decorative details on these weapons, according to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
Obama has promised that U.S would try to reduce its domestic demand
The report notes that White House aid Ben Rhodes cleared that Obama and U.S Secretary of State John Kerry have broached the issue with the Chinese. “A lot of these syndicates are based in China,’’ he was quoted.