23 January 2013

Tanzania: Bunge Committee Calls for Poaching Probe

MEMBERS of the Parliamentary Committee for Land, Natural Resources and Environment have hinted that they are considering asking the National Assembly to form a select committee to thoroughly probe increased incidents of poaching in the country.

Responding to questions from journalists, the committee's chairman, Mr James Lembeli, said poaching has escalated in the country in recent months and the government does not seem to be taking any action.

There are also allegations circulating that certain big shots and senior government officials are involved in the illicit business.

Mr Lembeli was briefing reporters after meeting with officials from the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development. "It is clear that they are scared to name those involved, thus the need for an independent committee appointed by Parliament that will investigate and name those involved without fear, because they will be protected by law," said Mr Lembeli.

The Kahama (CCM) legislator noted that laws must be changed to bring on board more severe punishments including exorbitant fines and long jail terms without the possibility of parole or presidential pardon. He cited as an example the release from prison by presidential pardon of one of the people convicted of killing one of the 'Kikwete rhinos.'

"Current laws are outdated, those found guilty of poaching are made to pay only 500,000/- which is very little for someone dealing in that business," he said. A report that was submitted to parliament last year, he said, showed that 30 elephants are killed by poachers on a daily basis, noting that with the recent increase in poaching the number might have doubled to 60.

He said poaching in the country has reached dangerous levels where security personnel are also noted of involvement, adding that the committee has for sometime now recommended to the government to take measures and address the problem.

A few years back, Mr Lembeni noted, the country faced similar problems and the population of elephants was reduced drastically due to poaching and the military had to intervene. "We need a similar special operation to ensure poaching is wiped out in the country to safeguard the dwindling population of elephants that's left," he explained.

He also revealed that elephants are not killed for their tusks alone but also the male private organs of the animals. "We were told and shown pictures during the last CITES meeting, we were all surprised. I have no idea why anyone would want the male parts of an elephant," he said.

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