Dodoma — THE government is investigating reports that a container full of ivory from Tanzania has been impounded in Hong Kong, China, the Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki told the National Assembly.
Ambassador Kagasheki also said that the government was investigating reports that officers with the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) are involved in mining activities within various national parks. "We are investigating reports that a container full of ivory from Tanzania was seized recently in Hong Kong, China. We'll use DNA tests to establish the origin of the tusks," he said.
Ambassador Kagasheki noted that information received so far shows the tusks passed through Tanzania on transit from an unknown origin, adding that investigations will also be carried out to establish identities of custom officers who were on duty at Dar es Salaam port on that particular day.
"We are working closely with our ambassador in China and the Ministry of Home Affairs in carrying out investigations that will help in getting the truth of the matter," he said. Mr Kagasheki was commenting while winding up debate on the review of Gombe National Park boundaries. Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Peter Msigwa (Iringa Urban-Chadema), charged that it was high time for the government to come up with measures to protect animals against poachers.
Mr Msigwa said poaching of elephants has reached alarming proportions in the country and suggested that the government should focus more to protect the mammals instead of seizing poached ivory. "The recent seizure of ivories in Hong Kong, China believed to originate from Tanzania is a shame and this is another indication that we have been outsmarted by poachers," he said.
On another note, Ms Pauline Gekul (Special Seats-Chadema) told Parliament that as the ministry was reviewing national parks boundaries, it was also high time to look at various human activities being done in those areas. She said that there were some mining activities in national parks where miners pay some fees to TANAPA officials.
"We are investigating the existence of mining in national parks and there's information that TANAPA officials are involved in this," said Mr Kagasheki.Two weeks ago, authorities in Hong Kong confiscated in total two shipping containers with ivory worth 3.4 million US dollars.
And on Monday this week, police in Dar es Salaam seized elephant tusks worth 2.1bn/-.
In another development, the National Assembly has endorsed the government's request to expand Gombe National Park boundaries from the current 33.74 square kilometres to 56 square kilometres. The House also passed the government's request to upgrade Sanane Island into a national park, bringing the number of national parks in the country to 16.
Mr Kagasheki said that in expanding the Gombe National Park which was established in 1968 and located in the basin of Lake Tanganyika will now include the shoreline." We are incorporating the shoreline to increase biodiversity and to allow comfort for animals, mostly baboons,' he added.