5 January 2014

Tanzania: Police Declare All Out War Against Poachers to Save Tourism Industry

Photo: CITES
Tanzania suspends officials over poaching allegations.

Sumbawanga — POLICE in Katavi region have announced round-theclock surveillance following reports that poachers still worked closely with local associates to sneak to the National Park to kill elephants for tusks.

Information gathered from different sources indicated that unscrupulous local recruits work closely with poachers by providing them with information regarding location of law enforcers and places where the animals could be spotted with ease.

Katavi Regional Police Commander, Dhahiri Kidavashari has pledged serious patrol and investigation by the police in collaboration with other stakeholders to expose operatives behind poaching, the practice if not controlled will wipe out the jumbos, part of the wildlife that attracts many tourists to the country.

The guaranteed patrol by the police comes in the wake of distressful reports by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism about indiscriminate killing of elephants at the tune of hundreds in the year 2013.

The appalling situation prompted launching of the beleaguered anti poaching operation 'Tokomeza' in September but got suspended citing violation of human rights as reason for postponement.

Through telephone interview with the 'Sunday News', Commander Kidavashari recalled an incident on Christmas- eve whereby two suspects believed to be core poachers narrowly escaped arrest during police chase. "The two suspects took ride on a motor bike along the Mpanda - Kigoma main road.

The riders carried a black bag. Coming close to Kabungu village in Mpanda District, they met the police patrol riders coming from the opposite direction," explained the police chief. He added; "The police stopped them but they ignored them.

The police decided to give chase and when the suspects were convinced that their attempt was going to abort, they finally abandoned the motorbike with registration number T113 AVJ, SanLG type and a 19 kg bag that contained seven pieces of elephant tusks valued at 45m/-," Kidavashari explained. However, the RPC could not established the identities of the suspects who were still at large.

"Confiscation of the government trophies was indicative of the ongoing poaching in the area and beyond. This must be stopped to rescue the wildlife for generations to come. The police will respond swiftly to any valid intelligence information provided by honest people.

For example, law abiding citizens alerted the police about the poachers who unfortunately disappeared," he said. Interviewed residents who preferred anonymity in fear of reprisal, confessed that poaching was not possible without cooperation from local operatives.

"Modern communication technology has simplified everything. Well positioned poachers happen to give heavy artillery to local shooters in return for a token," said one annoyed villager.

Another retired school teacher in Kabungu village said: "If the government is serious in combating poaching it should, through the intelligence units, work closely with mobile phone companies to trace secret communication links to expose those behind poaching," he suggested.

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