REPORTS that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism on Friday revoked hunting block licences owned by Green Miles Safaris Limited following alleged gross violation of sports hunting regulations could not have come at a better time than this.
The step comes at a time when the country is battling rampant poaching and other irregularities such as the one committed by the banned firm.
These, despite depleting the country's natural resources while at the same time sabotaging the economy also tarnish its image.
The country is endowed with a lot of natural resources which in most cases are misused by few people with the financial muscles to do so. It beats one's imagination that some hunting companies are stooping so low that they priorities money instead of following laid down regulations.
The move by the ministry will go a long away to deterring those companies which were following in Green Miles' footsteps. Addressing a news conference in Dar es Salaam, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said the revoked hunting blocks include Lake Natron GC East, Gonabis/Kidunda-WMA and MKI-Selous in Selous Game Reserve.
"The move must serve as a strong warning to tourism hunting companies in the country in regard to violation of laws, legislations and hunting regulations," he said.
The move also led to termination of all the hunting permits issued in the current hunting season. According to the minister, investigations conducted by a team of experts from the Wildlife Department established that the Company violated the Wildlife Conservation Act (No. 5 of 2009), following numerous irregularities in their hunting activities.
Some of the irregularities committed by the company include, allowing their visitors to hunt wild animals prohibited in the hunting licenses contrary to section 19(1)(2) of the Act; visitors playing with young zebras contrary to section 19(1); allowing their visitors to chase and shoot the wildlife animals (Section 56 (1) (a) 1) and hunting under age wild animals (56 (1)).
Other mistakes included, allowing children less than 16 years of age to take part in hunting animals (Section 43 (20 (a) and visitors scaring the animals while hunting (Section 19 (1) and (2).
The investigations came after the Shadow Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Rev Peter Msigwa, condemned Green Miles Safari officials for breaching existing regulations on Wildlife Conservation in Selous Game Reserve.
The act by the shadow minister, who went out of his way to get video evidence and showed it as proof of abuse of our resources, is highly commendable.
This is so because the resources continue to be plundered while wananchi are witnesses to it but without taking any measures to stop the rot. It is every citizen's duty to expose such social anomalies and make sure that our resources are safeguarded.
On the other hand, the discovery by the ministry of rampant abuses is just but a tip of an iceberg. The ministry and all relevant authorities should launch a crackdown on these hunt8ing firms to uproot those that are flouti9ng laid down regulations.
Many are times, many influential people have been condemned after posting their photos that will be showing their 'catch' during a hunting expedition.
And, in most cases, they are seen standing either behind a dead rhino, elephant or any other big animal. This sector really needs cleansing and the ministry's steps are important as they go long way in opening an opportunity for further investigations into the sector and thereby bring normalcy in the hunting field.
The ministry should not wait for someone to bring in evidence for them to react, but should be in the forefront in fighting this problem. The relevant authorities should also go an extra mile in devising a method or way of monitoring these hunting firms so that they adhere to their licence stipulations.
It is good news, however, that Minister Nyalandu while addressing the same gathering, said that the government is committed to ensure such companies are banned from taking part in wildlife activities.
This, therefore, means that the government should show through acts that it is serious on the issue and make sure that all rotten elements in the sector are removed.
On the other hand, the Minister conceded that the Wildlife Department's competence was limited, a situation that calls for its rationalisation to help control poor performance in wildlife conservation.
"There are a lot of weaknesses in regard to management and performance of the department," he said adding that the move calls for establishment of Wildlife Authority, a plan which is already in the cards.
It, however, remains a challenge to the government and the ministry to make sure that all the weaknesses highlighted by the minister are resolved, if ever they have any dream to curb rampant plundering and misuse of our natural resources.
It is everyone's duty to protect our natural resources and whenever we come across people, whether local or foreigners, rich or poor, doing so we should report to the relevant authorities for further action. This madness has to stop.