The Guardian Special Report: Why anti-poaching campaign is ineffective

This is a two-part investigative story by Tanzania’s IPP - THE GUARDIAN newspaper reporters analysing the campaign to save elephants, after suspension of Operation Tokomeza, following claims of abuse by the implementers.

  • Demand for ivory reported increasing
  • Govt officials accused of complicity
In recent years, Tanzania has witnessed a steep rise in poaching and other forms of crime targeting elephants and other wild animal species. The rate of killings is significantly greater than the elephants’ capacity to reproduce.

This has led many wildlife experts to declare the situation as a crisis, worse than the mass slaughter in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to the global ivory trade ban by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1989.

Currently, the selling of ivory is done only with the approval of CITES; moreover, raw ivory sales are expected to resume after the expiry of a nine year moratorium in 2017. The CITES approved ivory auction which was held in 2008, saw ivory selling at least US$1,700 per kg.

Government authorities and various international and local non-government organisations (NGOs) are working together to campaign against poaching in an effort to eliminate the ugly menace but they have failed as the killings are increasing rapidly.

Motivated by the ups and downs of the anti-poaching campaign, this paper assigned its IJ desk to investigate the matter and find out where the missing link is.

Selous Game Reserve, is about 395 km South-east of Dar es Salaam and covers a total area of 54,600 km (21,100 sq miles). It is about 6 percent of the country’s surface area and is bigger than Switzerland or Denmark.

The reserve is the worst hit in terms of elephant killings. According to The Encyclopedia Britannica, the term Selous, pronounced Se-l-oou without including the letter "s" as suffix, was named after an Englishman Sir Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and early conservationist, who died at Beho Beho in 1917 while fighting against the Germans during World War I.

Media reports say that the game reserve is Africa’s oldest (as its origin dates back to colonial era of the 1896) and is one of the largest protected wildlife reserves in the world. It is home to the largest elephant population on earth (more than half of Tanzania’s elephant population). It also has many other species.

Despite the fact that the area is protected, poaching and human-wildlife conflict continue to be a major problem hence the sudden rise in the killings of elephants. Selous has lost more than 80 percent its elephants to poaching in the last eight years.

A study carried out by the country’s wildlife authorities with support from the Frankfurt Zoological Society, indicated that in 2008, the game reserve was estimated to have between 65,000 and 70,000 elephants. This is now down to only 13,084 elephants. In the early 1970s, it had more than 100,000 elephants.

The findings of the Frankfurt Zoological Society are astonishing as the wave of massacring the elephants is escalating in the country. Poachers are killing an estimated 30 elephants a day. That translates to 850 elephants a month or 10200 elephant a year. More elephants are killed in less than the time it takes you to read this report.

Worried by this trend, President Jakaya Kikwete was at one time quoted as saying “… poaching of elephants in the country is upsetting and no stone would be left unturned in the search for poachers…we will capture them wherever they are hiding.”

Following the President’ directive, the former minister responsible for natural resource and tourism Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki in October last year, proposed radical ‘shoot-to-kill policy’ to curb the mass killing of elephants for illicit ivory trade which had been dubbed white gold.

The ‘Kagasheki’s policy’ looks as if it bore fruits as Shamsi Vuai Nahodha; former Minister for Defence and National Service, said in the first week after the famous ‘Operation Tokomeza which literally means ‘terminate’ was prematurely suspended.

The operation only lasted for 28 days (October 4th to November 1st 2014). By that time at least 952 suspected poachers had already been arrested, though he could not name them. During the period 104 pieces of ivory were seized, he said.

In addition, the operation was intended at developing the ecology of reserved areas, reserving scientific and academic opportunities of flora and fauna and urging residents in various areas to help the government prevent wanton killings of big game, especially elephants.

It was suspended following a report by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which probed the allegations of human rights abuse and barbaric actions on the part of its implementers.

The report gave gruesome and hair raising details of how men and women were tortured and administered with humiliating and painful punishment leading to permanent disability or death. In fact the report says a number of villagers were killed, their livestock shot to death in front of the owners who were forced to part with huge sums of money to the perpetrators of these monstrous acts.

Speaking to this paper recently; Paschal Shelutete, the Public Relations manager for Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) seemed to be put off after the an anti-poaching campaign (Operation Tokomeza) was suspended by the National Assembly as MPs complained about human rights violations in the course of the operation.

Shelutete explained his grievance to this paper, saying: “It is hard to accomplish our mission if we politicise everything. The operation was successful but the MPs were complaining, so what should we do! A military operation is not expected to please everyone. I assure you that poachers are now happy as there is no one to disturb them since Tokomeza was suspended.”

He added: “For them (poachers) business is booming as demand for ivory has increased especially in China. They make good money. In fact one can make US$300 for a tusk, middlemen sell to businessmen in town for about US$1000 to US$1400 a tusk. This is done in a country where the per capita income is about US$125 a month…so what do you expect? As incomes rise, so does the demand for ivory.”

Local sources indicate that the current price for ivory in China ranges from US$1000 to US$7000 per kilogram, depending on the quality. Selous ivory is considered the best; making the gross value of Selous’ elephants worth billions and thus attracting illegal businesses, organised crime networks, corrupt officials, terrorist groups and others to risk poaching.

“Many people are getting involved in the illegal hunting of elephants, and for sure, though we don’t have proof we suspect that some government officials are part of the network. This is due to the fact that most of the time when a poacher is caught, he is killed,” said Osward Mujungu a Sanje ward resident, in Kilombero district, Morogoro region.

For Mujungu shooting suspects bothers him. He thinks there is a hidden agenda. He asks: “But why kill them? I think when you catch a criminal; you need to interrogate him or her so as to get more information regarding the mater which may lead to arresting those behind the crime.

Killing the suspect is simply destroying the evidence … but for us the killing of elephants is good news as we have been struggling to keep the animals (elephants) away from our crops.”

He added: “The game wardens are not friendly to us as they have been torturing us especially when they find a person tilling the land which is in close proximity to the reserve. The torture is humiliating and this is the reason why we don’t collaborate with them when the elephants invade our community. We normally kill them and after we are done then we call the rangers to come and collect the carcass.”

Said Athuman, a traditional hunter and resident in the same area told our reporter: “During the Operation Tokomeza, many innocent people and some poachers were detained and tortured; some were even killed yet the perpetrators were, and they still are, rejoicing, as none of them was caught and tortured.”

According to him, it was not fair to have ‘insignificant’ (small fish) people in the network being arrested yet their bosses were left untouched. Ashe understands, in any poaching operation, you have one person who shoots, and another who cuts and carries the horns, a middleman who carries the order and the financier (the one gives orders). So it is a network and the leadership is protecting them.

Athuman admitted that in order for a person to be convinced to carry out the orders, he will need to know the amount that he will be paid and should also have some assurance for his safety.

Referring to one incident, Athuman said: “One day I met a person who was introduced to me as a businessman from Dar es Salaam. He said that he was looking for a committed person who would be collecting paddy for him from farmers.

The businessman assured me that he had a contract to supply rice to different schools and colleges…he kept visiting me and at the end of the day, he introduced me to his friend also from Dar es Salaam who promised to give me millions if I found him elephant tusks. I was tempted to accept the offer but at the same time I was scared of being caught.

After all I didn’t trust them as I wasn’t sure whether they were real businessmen or not. I think they were policemen in plainclothes...anyway, I rejected their proposal, since then I have never seen them.”

Athuman thinks that the driving force behind the escalation in poaching is the demand for ivory in China as the price per kilo of ivory has gone up giving poachers and others an opportunity to make good money.

Stopping the current tide of elephant poaching will be difficult. Athuman therefore suggests that the first thing in defending as well as protecting elephants is the availability of well-trained and equipped wardens whose work is valued and well rewarded.

“In most, if not all, of our parks and game reserves, there are insufficient numbers of rangers as often you find them poorly equipped. They are not paid well, yet they guard valuable resources. I am sure the situation makes them susceptible to corruption,” he said.

Mohamed Mgagana a resident of Kanyenja village in Mang’ula ward, Kilombero district, Morogoro region said that it is not easy for a person who does not know the behaviour of elephants as well as their habitat to get into the illegal killing of the animals.

Mgagana therefore believes that poachers work in collaboration with disloyal employees of the game reserve as they are the ones who know the routes that elephants use, as well as the water points.

“Animals tend to be in a specific area for either water or food; they will use the same route, the same water points, and often at a specific time,” he added.

A father of five, Mgagana is convinced that it is hard to fight poaching as long as those mandated to protect the animals, work in partnership with the killers. “…in fact we have been hearing that a poacher has been killed after being found cutting the tusks, but I keep asking myself but why…why kill him? However, I came to realise that they are being killed to protect the network.”

While Mgagana’s reason for the killing of suspects corresponds with that of Mujungu…Frednand Ndali, the Chairperson for Ikwambi village in Kilombero district; told this paper that the only solution to poaching is for the game reserve authorities to involve residents bordering the game in their plan of protecting the animals.

“If the authorities keep seeing our people as enemies or intruders and harass them, the community will not cooperate. In fact they will not join the anti-poaching campaign; and as a result, the government will not succeed in its campaign,” said Ndali.

The chairperson said he is not just backing his people, he wants those who are engaged in poaching to face legal action but the innocent ones shouldn’t be harassed. “Most of my people are farmers, so when they are harassed, it is not easy for them to conduct their farming activities, and as you know; they totally depend on agriculture so if you fail them in what they depend on, I will not support you because you are simply trying to kill them.”

Backing his chairperson; a villager Moshi Zinga said: “Because of the harassment, we sometime fail to till the land and if we do it might be late in the season so as a result we harvest little or sometimes we harvest nothing.”

She added: “Life isn’t easy at all. We are so scared and we wish we had another place to go and live. We are being told Tanzania is an island of peace. Show me the peace! Look at that young man; does he look like a poacher? He was beaten severely but surprisingly they just let him go without taking him to the police.”
In an irritated voice; Zinga said she wished all the elephants could just die so that the people may live in peace and harmony.

“The elephants are now more important than we the people. Since I was born, I haven’t seen any economic benefit from the elephants in our village. , We are the ones who pay everything for our development. The animals are there but they don’t pay taxes, they don’t farm yet they are more important than us. Surely, I wish them all dead,” said Zinga.

Zinga asks: “If we are missing the link as far as anti-poaching campaign is concerned, will the government succeed?”

“They (game wardens) have stolen our money; our livestock have been cheaply auctioned. We have been left with nothing; in fact we have become poorer than before. Most of us have never ever seen the elephant with our naked eyes yet we are being accused of being poachers,” she added

Zinga is convinced that Operation Tokomeza did not deal with the real poachers as it was meant to be. She thinks those in the operation were just arresting the innocent, leaving out the real ‘criminals.’

According to her, the ‘askari’ were getting to the villages that are very far away from the game reserve and others were just patrolling during the night and if they happened to find a person at night, they would ask for money and if the person had nothing, then the person was tortured.

Zinga’s story is corroborated by Zuberi Kabindijega who works as the chairperson for Namawala Village in Kilombero district, Morogoro region.

Kabindijega told our reporter that he went to visit his son, Juma Mola, who resides in Mbuga Village, in Mahenge-Morogoro. He stayed there for a day, then the next morning he decided to visit a relative in the same area; but when he was going back to his son’s home, he encountered the ‘askari’ at Luhumbero Bridge. These were combined forces of soldiers from Tanzania Peoples Defense Force (TPDF), Police Force and the wardens.

He said the ‘askari’ ordered him to sit down and identify himself, after he had identified himself, he was questioned where was he from as well as where was he heading. He replied politely that he had gone to visit a relative and he was heading back to his son’s place. This explanation did not seem to satisfy the askari.

“They kept asking more questions and I responded; they asked me why I went to see my son when I knew there was Operation Tokomeza which did not allow movement of people! I replied that I wasn’t aware of such restrictions …they finally asked me how much I had, they forced me to give them all the money…it was 100,000/- and they ordered me to tell no one that they had camped at the bridge,” Kabindijega said.

He added: “If they were really looking for poachers as well as protecting the wild beasts, why were they stationed at the bridge waiting for innocent people to come and steal their money? I am hundred percent sure that if such acts continue, then we should expect more killings of elephants.”

Up to now, the President’s declaration to capture the perpetrators behind the massacring of elephants and Kagasheki’s proposed radical ‘shoot-to-kill policy’ have not provided the lasting solution on the matter.

This is why curbing ivory poaching requires major changes especially in political will. The existing wildlife laws must also be enforced and perpetrators punished accordingly and not protected if poaching is to be perceived as a serious crime.

Apart from being the largest remaining terrestrial mammals on earth, elephants have been playing an important and pivotal ecological role in savanna and forest ecosystems helping to maintain suitable habitats for a myriad of other species. Therefore, something needs to be done to rescue the remaining elephant populations.

According to the Tanzania Elephant Management Plan 2010-2015 published by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (Tawiri), the country is again facing rising law enforcement challenges as ivory poaching is increasing, driven by a resurgent demand for ivory in Asia.

The document which is 104 pages, says that Tanzania has to strive to become a world leader in elephant conservation by ensuring that elephant populations and their habitats are secured and conserved in harmony with people for the benefit of present and future generations.

Part of the document reads: “Using the best available scientific, technical and indigenous knowledge, Tanzania will conserve her elephant population and the ecological integrity of elephant habitats, through; maintaining current protected areas and securing viable corridors and dispersal areas, reducing human-elephant conflict (HEC) using land use planning and appropriate mitigation methods, enhancing law enforcement, governance and accountability, promoting appropriate research, monitoring and information management, ensuring sustainable use, stakeholder involvement and equitable benefit sharing.”

Part II
  • Public: Less talk, more action to eliminate vice
The Tanzania Elephant Management Plan 2010-2015 says Tanzania should have a naturally functioning elephant population if it ensures that their habitat, corridors, dispersal areas are secured, and reduces human-elephant conflict.

The plan published by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute also calls for enhanced benefit sharing, effective law enforcement, and improved knowledge and its application to achieve the goal.

Under the present situation this is not likely to happen because people believe that they have been short-changed. People interviewed by this paper on the plan are asking, why with the available scientific, technical and indigenous knowledge, authorities are failing to conserve the elephants and to fight poaching.

Speaking during the launch of a new elephant census which confirmed the decline of the population of the large mammals across the country, then deputy minister for Natural Resources and Wildlife Lazaro Nyalandu who is now the minister, accused unnamed international traders of abetting illegal trade in ivory.

Nyalandu noted that a large number of elephant deaths were non-natural, saying that only about seven to eight percent of the animals were estimated to have died naturally (through disease or old age).

This is the reason why people are saying the fight against poaching requires political will; due to the fact that Nyalandu’s only accusations without naming the perpetrators…the so called international traders will contribute nothing to the fight.

Not only the minister, but most government officials will say “we know those behind…some are government officials, politician etc” but why are they stammering when it comes to naming the perpetrators?

Nyalandu lamented: “…the census results are clear evidence that poaching of elephants had reached alarming proportions” and that figures showed that elephant tusks weighing 32.987 tons were seized within and outside the country between 2008 and September, 2013.”

He also blamed the increase of livestock grazing in protected areas and wildlife corridors as one of the reasons for the decrease of elephants across the country, citing the Kilombero Game Controlled Area which is part of the Selous - Mikumi ecosystems as an example. Twelve years ago it was home to some 2,080 elephants but it had none in the just-ended census.

But despite these setbacks the ministry is determined to intensify the protection of wildlife in collaboration with other stakeholders including defence and security forces and regional and international conservation organizations.

Nyalandu called on wildlife managers to be upright and stop assisting poachers, warning that the government would have ‘zero tolerance’ for those involved in poaching.

Some people said that it was because of statements by people like Nyalandu and other government officials that they knew who was involved in poaching but refused to name them that they felt that the fight against poaching needed political will.

One of them was Eng David Mkumbo. He said: “We are tired of hearing empty words from the minister. If you know so and so are involved in the saga…why don’t you take action? You are there crying that our elephants are declining and claiming to know those behind poaching and you always say those behind include politicians, wildlife managers and the illegal international ivory traders…why don’t you arrest and question them?”

“According to the minister, the ministry spent at least US$160,000 during the latest census…I really wonder, why use such amount only for a census when the decline has been obvious…We used to see many elephant families when we were crossing the Mikumi National Park but now the animals are rarely seen, this should trigger that there is something wrong somewhere…we need to walk the talk.”

Mkumbo a consulting engineer currently engaged in road construction in Namtumbo one of the districts where poaching is rampant, added: “At one time I heard Nyalandu saying corruption and immorality are the main reasons that contribute to the ongoing elephant poaching and that this should not be tolerated. He added that if legal action is not taken against the corrupt police officers, employees at national parks, politicians and illegal ivory traders who are shielded by public servants, then the country will lose all of her elephants in few years to come.

So I say to Nyalandu what are you waiting for? This is what I call an empty statement. Why are you hiding the names, because if you don’t mention them, then how will the public distance you from those police officers, game reserve and park employees, politicians and public servants who are behind the swindle?”

As part of the assignment, The Guardian IJ Desk reached Tunduru which is one of the five districts in the Ruvuma region. The district is 790 kms south of Dar es Salaam. It takes about 11 hours to reach the area, depending on the road condition. Sometime it takes up to 24 hours.

The district is rich in natural resources. It has four major national forest reserves- Nandembo, Muhuwesi, Mwambesi and Sasawala which are being governed by central government in collaboration with the district council.

The district is also home to various gemstone deposits which include sapphire, chrysobery, alexandrite, spinel and garnets. The deposits have attracted many business people but some locals are afraid if these are real business people or not because there seems to be something odd going on.

“Most of the houses in this town have been bought by gem traders but we don’t see any gem trading taking place. These are the people financing poaching…you will find their houses open even at mid night. What are they doing at such an hour? I think the government has to do something otherwise we will be left with nothing and the generation to come might not be able to see the wild elephant,” said a female teacher in Tunduru, who preferred anonymity.

She added: “In short, the anti-poaching campaign has failed. It only focused on shooters, those who hack off the tusks with an axe after the animal is killed and some young men hired as porters yet none of those behind the business were touched. It is similar to drug trade as we have been hearing those carrying the illicit drug are caught yet people behind the trade are unknown.”

According to her, many people were arrested during the Operation Tokomeza, though they were later released but others have not been seen anywhere in the district since then. “I am sure they were killed…Evance alias Achimbigo went missing in June last year. We searched for him but we have not found him up to now. He was suspected to be connected to the poaching network…others were reported missing in Meamtwaro, Machemba and Namasakata villages.”

The 36-year- old teacher said that people don’t trust each other; they don’t want to speak about the matter. Pointing to a group of at least 10 energetic young men (doing what), she said: “…all of them were arrested…I am sure they are going to ask me about you; they are scared. Look at those so called gemstone dealers, in the 90s Nakapanya division was booming because of gem deposits, but now there is nothing…I am wondering, what these people really doing?”

“I am convinced that these are the ones involved in financing the killing of our endangered is unfortunate that lack of resources and weak institutional capacity coupled with inadequate law enforcement, human-elephant conflict as well as lack of mutual relationship between the parks, game reserves and the people, will automatically put our elephants at risk,” she noted.”

The killing of those suspected of poaching is upsetting many residents and village authorities. Words such as ‘is missing’ which are meant to show that the said persons were killed by the game warden are common although the authorities deny this.

One of the gem traders Mustapher Mahmud, a Sri Lanka national said: “The gemstones that we buy are from Mozambique, and our business is open.” Mahmud denies the allegation that most of the gem dealers are involved in poaching saying: “It is not true, we do what we have been licensed to do and nothing else”

But some of the Tunduru residents insist that some of gem dealers conduct or fund mining activities in the Selous Game Reserve. “They tell you they are miners yet we see them with large-caliber hunting rifles, hopefully they are using the rifles in poaching, and if they are buying gems from Mozambique, why don’t they open their businesses over there?” One resident asked.

The Tunduru District Executive Director (DED), Robert Nahetta; confirmed to this paper that there are mining activities conducted within the Selous game reserve.

“There are mining activities going on within the Selous Game Reserve. It is unfortunate that these people are suspected to be also engaging in poaching. We have approached the Ministry for Energy and Minerals for clarification and soon we will have a meeting as these people claim to have legal permits to conduct the mining,” he said.

He said there was a contradiction between the laws that govern mining activities and those for environment and natural resources in Selous. Environmental legislation does not allow mining near water sources, but officials with the Ministry of Energy and Minerals claim they handle resources that are under the ground.

He added: “As I said, we will have a meeting in January as the previous arrangement could not bear fruits. We were supposed to meet December 13th and 14th last year but the meeting was postponed as the schedule for Stephen Masele, the deputy minister for Energy and Mineral, who was to chair the meeting did not allow him to be in Tunduru.” However, up to now there meeting has never taken place.

When reached for comment, minister Nyalandu said: “We have such people in the game reserve; we will arrest them and deal with them the same way we deal with other poachers…the law gives the President powers to allow mining activities in areas similar to Selous whereby the resources to be extracted include uranium, oil and gas.”

However Nyalandu said that the area had a unique heritage and was recognised and listed in World Heritage Sites under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); therefore, it was not easy to allow mining activities.

But according to the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency (TMAA) the law says conducting mining activities within the Selous Game Reserve is a crime. TMAA’s Valuation Manager George Kaseza, told this journalist that areas with natural resources such as wild animals, are protected by the law and any activity which is not covered by the law, shouldn’t allowed.

But if the law of the country does not allow such activities, why are these miners carrying on with their activities in the midst of the reserve? Who is protecting them!

Hassan Limbega, a Natural Resources Officer in Tunduru district said none of the gem dealers have been caught in connection with poaching, but he admitted that some small-scale miners were arrested in connection with conducting mining in the reserve.

He added: “…investigations are still underway so as to capture all the architects behind poaching.”

Limbega also acknowledged that there are some district officials as well game wardens that are being investigated for poaching but like other officials he did not mention any names.

Limbega’s claim is supported by the country’s Chief Justice (CJ) Mohamed Chande. He says at least 516 court cases which were directly connected to Operation Tokomeza were received by the judiciary.

“The judiciary is part and parcel of the operation and in fact out of the trials received, 198 charges have been concluded in six Resident Magistrate's Courts as well as in 19 District Courts countrywide.”

Even though the natural resource officer noted that there is a strict procedure when it comes to transporting the tusks that are taken from elephants that die of natural causes. The procedure is questionable.

This is due to the fact that sometimes those who come to fetch the ivory sometimes do not have the legal permit but since they are in the higher ranks, they are just allowed to carry them.

A similar story was told to The Guardian by Erastus Lufunguro, the Chief Conservator of Kilimanjaro National Park (Kinapa). He said during his time at Tarangire National Park he witnessed improper fetching of ivory from the park to Babati district headquarters.

“I am not sure if the tusks reached the headquarters…as sometimes officials could come and take the ivory without proper recording and even without having tight security. According to the ministry’s secular, moving tusks from the park is allowed only if the director for Tanapa has granted a permit. But with Tarangire, things were not as they should be…I tried to stop it but here I am…,” he said in an interview with this paper.

Even though, Lufunguro could not give more details according to our investigation such incidents are common and involve dishonest officials from various departments within Tanapa, Tarangire and from the Ministry’s headquarters and this is why they are being protected by the relevant authorities.

Lufunguro’s performance at Tarangire was seen as a hindrance by those who were involved in the saga, hence he was transferred to Kinapa to silence him, but Lufunguro does not want to admit or even to acknowledge the reason behind his removal from Tarangire National Park to Kinapa.

He sees it as a promotion.
“When it comes to Tanapa’s earning, it is Kinapa and Serengeti that are contributing a large amount, so the good work which I did during my era at Tarangire and even at the Arusha National Park, has contributed to my rise; I see this as a promotion and not demotion,” he said.

Brown Kanjenje, the Tunduru District Bee Keeping Officer said that some bee keepers have been mistakenly caught in the game reserve, alleged destroying animal passages and illegally hunting in Lukwika Lumbesule and Mbuyuni villages.

“They might be…we always instruct them…they ought not to carry knives, guns or anything that is not directly involved with bee keeping…elephants are an important source of revenue…many people are prepared to pay large sums of money either to watch and photograph them in the wild or hunt them for sport.”

In Tanzania, official elephant hunting fees are estimated to be around between USD $30,000 and USD$40,000.

Kanjenje admitted that some officials within the government are alleged to be part of the poaching network so it is hard to fight against poaching or the safe transportation of tusks from elephants that die of natural causes.

“Here at the district, we take all the necessary precautions to make sure that the tusks are stored in a strong-room. We don’t allow any tusk to be taken from the store unless there is official approval from the ministry’s headquarters.

Nonetheless we are not sure whether the tusks reach the destined area as when we hand them the cargo, it is in the hands of the ministry.”

The officer appealed to the government to pay park and game rangers salaries that make it worth their while not to poach or allow poaching. He also said organisations looking to stem the ivory trade need to look at creating other economic opportunities for would-be poachers.

He said other countries have helped local communities who are neighbouring parks and game reserves by closely working with them to develop sustainable economic activities through which income is generated.

“In cases where poverty is a real driver of poaching and deforestation, law enforcement is still useful, but it won’t address the root of the problem. Let us take action by joining hands and mobilize efforts to motivate people to take action and fight against elephant poaching,” says Kanjenje.

According to him, the uncontrolled killing of elephants for ivory has already caused the extinction of elephants in some countries such as Gambia in 1913, Swaziland in 1920s, Burundi in 1970s and Mauritania in the 1980s. Therefore, if not jointly protected now, the country’s elephants will vanish as it has happened in those countries mentioned.

“Poor families are burning forests and some of their young ones are engaging in poaching wildlife, and selling the tusks to middle men for revenue, so it is extremely important in that case to supply alternative livelihoods. Let us help these families to have land for cultivation, let us help them access modern technology as that is what is needed to stop poaching,” he added.

“This is a war that needs joining hands together and fighting against poaching. Although the poachers make money, it is blood money….we should work closely with the country’s wildlife authorities to prevent the illegal killing of elephants as well as promoting conservation-based activities in local communities that neighbor the reserves and parks,” said Juanita Mhagama; an Ikwiriri resident, Rufiji district in Coast region.

“…fueling this devastation are the greed for a rare commodity and local poverty, people are looking for money, the unemployment rate is big, graduates are on streets…young people in villages are jobless only waiting for harvesting period to have a cash, yet money is needed throughout; what should they do if they are approached by those financing poaching! They want to make money quickly,” she added.

According to her the community which should help in protecting the animals is happy when an elephant is killed because they do not see the benefit/importance of the animal. “And the one to blame are the authorities, because they don’t have mechanisms that empower local communities to use and benefit from the wildlife and other natural resources on a sustainable basis,” said Mhagama.

Source: The Guardian Part I and  Part II