There is evidence of belated seriousness at the National Resources and Tourism ministry on the need to wage a winning war on poaching, which has turned especially nasty in recent years. This is if the suspension of 21 wildlife officials associated with the plunder of our wildlife is anything to go by.
Stories about rampant poaching in the country’s national parks and game reserves have done the rounds for so many years that one would think that the authorities entrusted with safeguarding the sanctuaries are on indefinite strike or vacation.
But, with what we have just heard about the 21 public servants, could it be that the ministry has suddenly grown teeth with enhanced biting capacity when the safety of our wildlife is under serious threat?
We are told that the action has been taken because the officials are suspected of being directly involved in poaching and corruption or collaborating with networks involved in poaching.
Even if one were to dismiss the action taken by the ministry as too little too late, we believe it could still make a difference.
The media have lately been awash with stories about elephant tusks, animal skins, rhino horns and other government trophies being impounded in several parts of the world.
The origin of these hauls has been traced to Tanzania, one of the richest countries in the world in terms of being endowed with all manner of wildlife.
Many have long wondered how the trophies, and sometimes live animals such as giraffes, illegally make it across our borders and the high seas to far-off destinations. The riddle is deciphered: unscrupulous wildlife officials are involved in this despicable game of death.
With the suspension of the officials, we only hope many more heads will roll and much more drastic intervention will follow. But we strongly recommend that more rigorous screening of the type of people we entrust with the safeguarding of our national parks, game reserves and other wildlife sanctuaries.
Entertaining nepotism or any other irrelevant considerations will always result in lots more of the kind of mess we are now in – and should be forbidden.
The ministry and other relevant state organs should meanwhile hasten investigations and embark on the next step as soon as possible to ensure that all culprits face the full wrath of the law. That would demonstrate due care for our national heritage and point to good governance at work.
Time is ripe for our legislation to be amended so that poaching is treated as economic sabotage and therefore attracts stiffer legal sanctions. Come to think of it, doesn’t poaching indeed amount to economic sabotage?
We should not let the plunder in our wildlife sanctuaries go on unabated, with untold costs partly in the form of the senseless people and wild animals killed or hurt in the process, as we helplessly look on.
Those officially charged with safeguarding our wildlife should be at the war front. That any of them should themselves turn into poachers would be worse than dreadful.
Poaching is a vicious enemy, and we are at war. We should seek to hit the bull’s eye. Only that would be good enough.