Tanzania: Poaching Syndicate Exposed

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Dodoma — Key suspects in the massive poaching and wildlife trafficking were named yesterday, with the police given seven-day ultimatum to arrest and prosecute Wayne Lotter's murderers.

Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla released the first list of operators, owners of hunting blocks and officials in the ministry accused of supporting the poaching syndicate.

He blamed the suspects whom he said had for a decade paralysed the country's national parks, protected areas and game reserves. Dr Kigwangalla, speaking to reporters here, said: "The suspects along with their associates will first undergo a thorough inquiry by the ministry's special task force...I have potential incriminating evidence and I want them to appear before the task force for questioning."

He gave the named suspects until next Wednesday to report to the Ministry in Dodoma. The named suspects are Berlette Safari Corporation Limited, which operates Ruvu Masai GCA, Selous GR LL1, Selous GR LL2 and Selous GR MT2; and Game Frontiers of Tanzania Ltd that controls Moyowosi/Njigwe GR 2, Rungwa River GCA, Mbaranga'NDU WMA and Ugalla GR E as well as Green Miles Safaris Limited.

Others are Mkwawa Hunting Safaris (T) Ltd that operates on Selous M1, Selous GR K4 and Selous GR R1; TanzaniaGame Trackers Safaris Ltd that operates on Maswa Kimali GR, Maswa Mbono, Ugalla GR N and Ugalla GR S. Wengert Windrose Safaris (T) Ltd that runs Lake Natron GCA-North, Makere FR-Uvinza OA and Moyowosi GR S also appears in the list. The minister charged that he had received vital information from the United States of America agency implicating some of the hunting block operators for supporting the poaching syndicate.

"I can confirm to you, a wife of one of the suspects had close relations with the Ivory Queen, Ms Yang Fenglan," Dr Kigwangalla charged, adding that some operators cleverly used their official documents to smuggle hundreds of kilogrammes of ivory and other endangered wildlife by conniving with dishonest government officials.

While hunting operators may have permits to kill two wild animals a year, Dr Kigwangalla said, some killed over 20 and used the same permit to smuggle the illegally hunted animals. "Some extended their hunting blocks while some are also accused of transferring hunting blocks without observing the procedures," he revealed.

It had come to the ministry's attention that while there were over 116,000 elephants in Ruaha Game Reserve in 2008, a 2014 census revealed that there were only 8,000 elephants. The Minister said the government has embarked on acomprehensive strategy to purge the entire syndicate of wildlife trafficking in the country by 2020.

Dr Kigwangalla warned especially the police to back up efforts by the ministry against poachers. Citing the killing of Lotter, renowned elephant conservationist in August last year, after having received numerous death threats in the country for his work, the minister said police were aware of the people behind the killing but had taken too long to act.

"The police are aware of the names and location of all people behind the killing...they had a video footage of the person who financed the plan, yet nothing has been done," the minister charged, giving the law enforcers seven days to take action or else he will personally take the matter to President John Magufuli.

According to Dr Kigwangalla, one of the people who had evidence has already been killed and others are afraid of their lives.

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