27 January 2013

Tanzania: Govt Probes Poaching Rise

Dar es Salaam — The Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment is weighing measures of engaging the National Assembly to form a selected committee to thoroughly probe increased incidents of poaching.

Speaking with officials from the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) in Dar es Salaam, the Committee's Chairman, Mr. James Lembeli, said poaching has escalated and his team is disgusted with the government's failure to stem it.

"The last time we gave the government a comprehensive strategy on how to deal with the problem was during the budget session last July, but it failed to act," said Lebeli.

Lembeli explained that there is a need for an independent committee appointed by Parliament to probe the matter since there are allegations that certain big shots and senior government officials are involved in the illegal business.

He stressed that independent committee appointed by Parliament will investigate and name those involved without fear, because they will be protected by law. According to the chairman, the committee has submitted the names of big shots in the government who are allegedly part of the poaching network.

The last straw came after last weekend reports that a soldier in the Tanzania People's Defence Forces (TPDF) is being held on allegations of poaching. The officer was arrested by Lake Manyara National Park rangers, he was reportedly found with two pieces of ivory.

"This incident has changed the face of poaching in the country, indicating that a complicated network that involves some elements in security organs is responsible for poaching," he declared.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the army used to be sent after the poachers and this helped reduce the problem, according to Mr Lembeli. The committee has several options to get the government to act, but the most obvious would be to table a private motion in parliament to create a select committee to probe the matter and recommend the way forward.

Lembeli noted that it is high time now 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 the example of a poacher who killed President Jakaya Kikwete's imported rhino, despite the fact that it was heavily guarded.

"He received 15 years in jail. Surprisingly, the same person got a presidential pardon after eight months only. I am not sure if the president was told the truth."

The chairman hinted the report that was submitted to parliament last year, 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.

Lembeli noted that it emerged that elephants are not killed just for their tusks but also for their genital organs which, he said.

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