20 August 2017

Tanzania: Straight Talk - Mourning Lotter, Great Fighter of Jumbo Poaching

Photo: The Citizen
Wayne Lotter

I will probably sound angry or disappointed as I pen down this article. But I believe most of my readers will agree with me on the concern I wish to raise and address today.

It is of great national interest to which we all have seen and heard several government leaders issuing utterances in support or in condemnation of the attacks on a very important animal - the elephant.

The animals now face extinction, to prevent this from happening several efforts have been made. Campaigns are on going.

The alarm has never stopped ringing and the call has received support from near and afar knowing that the elephants, like all endangered animals, are a human heritage, and when they are finished it is a calamity to the world and not only to the countries losing them.

Of course we all know the elephant is hunted, killed because of their tusks which attract high prices in the Far East for many traditional reasons and of which several organizations including CITES have aroused the world interest on its banning.

Sales of ivory have been banned but in reality the business continues in the black market involving criminals and gangs as it is certainly a billion dollar business.

We would be wrong to deny that Tanzania has been the hub of the business. The country has not only lost a number of elephants but has also been a battle ground and even a significant route for the trade.

One of the high profile proponent or supporter of war against killing of elephants for their tusks has been Wayne Lotter of PAMS.

His organisation helped saving thousands of elephants in Tanzania and has been the source of several arrests of suspected traffickers in this business.

Lotter, 51, who had the zeal and drive to fight against poachers and dismantling their networks, was shot dead in Dar es Salaam by two gun totting assailants in a day certainly one of the darkest in Tanzania's fight against ivory trade and corruption in general.

Such death has certainly put a drawback to President Magufuli's efforts to fight high level corruption against a person who was constantly blocked by its ugly face as for sure corruption is the driving force in ivory trade as it touching all sources from the parks, storage, police stations, courts and jails.

I believe it is a very expensive exercise to arrest poachers but more so for the international ivory dealers. Lotter had distinguished himself and put his life in danger all the time. I believe he knew he made more enemies each day and he knew, as much he was after them, they were also after him.

However, it saddens me that we have heard very little from high government levels on this death of a person whose contribution can be matched with no one along the whole line of our security organs.

I said at the beginning I might sound angry or disappointed and I really do.

Such death should have received full attention of the government and probably a statement from Prime Minister and above, and above meaning the President.

Lotter put his life for our natural resources in the name of the most famed animal-the elephant.

Now it is not proper to question as to how much was he protected, knowing he was always being pursued by ivory dealers, many of whom he has caused pain in business and in jail confinements.

We only hope Lotter will be honoured for his contribution and that his death will not pass just as one of them because it is not. He dies a hero for Tanzania and he deserves recognition.

Mr Saleh is a lawyer, journalist, author, political commentator, media consultant and poet. He is also the Member of Parliament for Malindi in Zanzibar

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