According to Rukwa regional commissioner Joachim Wangabo, trappers of rodents regularly set fire to the bushes in search of rats for delicacy consumption.
The practice, he said, threatens to transform the forests into semi-deserts and thus needs to be curbed forthwith.
“It is not wrong for people to eat rodents, that is not a challenge for us...the challenge is how this delicacy is hunted or trapped. The use of fire to catch wild rats is a serious problem. It has put our forests under serious threat,” said Wangabo.
He directed officials in the region to use pesticides to kill the rats, as a way of rescuing the forests.
Rukwa is among regions in the country where wild rats are regarded as a special delicacy.
According to Sumbawanga district council director Nyangi Msemakali, rat hunting in the district “is associated with cultural and traditional beliefs among communities in the areas.”
Meanwhile, RC Wangabo also said the region’s tree-planting campaign is being ruined by the practice of burning forests to hunt down rats.
He called on communities living around the forests to take the tree-planting campaign seriously at a time when the world is grappling with challenges posed by climate change.
The RC directed regional authorities to strictly enforce the Environmental Management Act and ensure that people responsible for environmental damage are taken to task.
From July 2017 to January 30 this year, a total of 830,527 trees were planted in Sumbawanga district, being 55.4 per cent of the target. The council has 92 forests totalling 49,179 hectares.
RC Wangabo also distributed 850 tree seedlings to households of Mpwapwa village in the district.