By Rhishja Cota-Larson
Three of Tanzania’s top wildlife officials have been fired for smuggling giraffes, lions, gazelles, hornbills, vultures and other rare species to Qatar. The Citizen reports that wildlife director Obeid Mbangwa — along with Simon Charles Gwera and Fank Mremi from the country’s CITES Management Authority — allegedly arranged for more than 100 animals to be flown from Tanzania to Qatar in a military plane in November 2010.
Tanzania approached the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) for assistance in the illegal trade whose mastermind is said to be a Pakistan national.
Two staffers of the CITES MA, Martha Msemo and Anthonia Anthony, received written warnings, and so did Silvanus Okudo. An assistant director for poaching control, Bonaventura Midala, was removed from his post.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, noted the “Qatar government was rather mum”, thus making it “difficult to interrogate suspects who include the pilot of the Qatar cargo plane which ferried the animals and the birds”.
Tanzania government officials from different ministries and departments have been tasked with the mission of locating the wildlife, as the final destinations were not known. It is hoped the animals and birds can be brought back to the country. A 12-month ban on exporting wildlife was apparently put into place last year amid reports of the smuggling.
Ironically, the CITES CoP15 was held in Doha, Qatar, in March 2010.