THE government has confirmed that 500 pieces of ivory tusks seized in Hong Kong on Friday originated from the Dar es Salaam Port.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, said in Dar es Salaam that he received a phone call from his source in Dubai notifying him that a consignment of 500 pieces of ivory tusks worth US 1.4dollars (approx. 2.24bn/-) had been seized in Hong Kong.
The consignment weighing 1,330 kilogrammes, hidden under hundreds of bags of sunflower is the second major haul of ivory to be confiscated in Hong Kong. He said that he was dispatching a team to Dubai and Hong Kong to investigate and trace those involved in smuggling ivory from the country.
Ambassador Kagasheki noted that the consignment arrived in Dubai from Dar es Salaam Port while the accompanying papers were altered to show that the consignment destined for Hong Kong was from Dubai, adding that the pieces of tusks meant a total of about 250 elephants were illegally killed.
"This is very disturbing news indeed, I have already discussed the issue with the Inspector General of Police and we are dispatching a small team of trusted experts to Dubai and Hong Kong to assess the papers and follow it up to discover those involved," he explained.
He noted that he would also hold discussions with the Minister for Home Affairs, Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi, on the issues for further measures on apprehending those involved. Last month a consignment worth 3.3 million USD, stashed in two containers arriving from Kenya and Tanzania was also seized in Hong Kong.
Ambassador Kagasheki expressed his disappointment on supervision at the Dar es Salaam Port, which he said was equipped with facilities, to inspect contents of containers. "If such a container full of elephant tusks can leave the port unnoticed, then the country is in grave danger.
This proves that even weapons can be sneaked into the country," the minister noted. He said that efforts by the government to fight poaching and the country's image in general is being tarnished by a few unpatriotic people at the port. He explained that his efforts to enlist the Tanzanian Ambassador in China in helping curb smuggling of ivory tusks have not been successful.
Ambassador Kagasheki noted that he will also hold talks with the Ambassador of China in the country to have his government assist in apprehending those involved, noting that if need be the government of Tanzania will start closely scrutinizing Chinese nationals living in the country, because some of them are suspected to be dealing in the ivory business.
He said the latest developments undermine the government's intention of asking the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES), in the March meeting next year, to grant Tanzania a permit to sell its stockpile of ivory tusks.