By Lusekelo Philemon
The Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) is in final touches to transform its system of operation from the civilian model into paramilitary system, in an effort to scale down poaching in the country.
Director General of TANAPA, Allan Kijazi revealed these over the weekend when wrapping up a four-month military training for 96 rangers, who completed their training in Katavi National Park.
He said idea is meant to strengthen the country’s wildlife watchdog to ably heighten the war against the escalating poaching in its 16 national parks.
Kijazi said under the new transformation every TANAPA staff who had no military training before; they would need to undergo special military training.
“All employees that are to be employed by TANAPA from wildlife colleges like Mweka in Kilimanjaro and Pasiansi in Mwanza as well as those from the National Service would be required to undergo into such special training,” the official said.
He added that the system gives opportunity for new comers to understand the entire working environment of TANAPA as well as understanding national parks available in the country.
It is estimated that out of 2,200 staff of TANAPA, nearly 800 are civilians (who have no military training).
Meanwhile four people have been arrested for alleged possession of elephant tusks and lion claws worth at least 90m/-, the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has said.
According to a statement issued in Dar es Salaam yesterday, they were arrested on Thursday by the eastern zone anti-poaching squad and police at Kariakoo in Ilala district and Mwenge in Kinondoni District.
The statement, which was issued on Sunday evening, said the anti-poaching squad, accompanied by police officers, suspected a taxi cab.
Its occupants were Morice Vincent Mowo a.k.a Babuu, a resident of Kinondoni, Hassana Hassana Kitosa, a resident of Tegeta and taxi driver Rashid Juma George, from Ilala.
Upon searching the taxi with registration number T553 BGG and side number Ilala 2123, the squad found 34 tusks and ten necklaces, said the statement.
Other items include bracelets, pendants and carvings made from elephant tusks and other animals, four hippopotamus teeth and 12 lion claws.
The three people found in the taxi were taken to the central police station and during interrogation the three are alleged to have confessed that more tusks and other products were at shop number 33 at Mwenge market.
When police searched the carvings shop they found more government trophies, according to the statement.
It said they found the shopkeeper cum attendant known as Isack Miulo – a resident of Kawe area in Kinondoni municipality.
However, the ministry said one Joseph and Phillip managed to escape and are still being sought.
One of the two persons is said to be the owner of the shop that was keeping the government trophies.
The statement said the two, who are believed to be owners of the government trophies, have to surrender themselves to the police.
According to the statement, all the government trophies are worth 90m/-. The ministry has since called upon the public to volunteer information that would lead to the arrest of people involved in poaching or transportation of government trophies.
The statement said informers for such people will be rewarded though the amount was not given.
Poaching is a challenge facing Tanzania’s wildlife. Among most affected animals are elephants that might completely disappear if the poaching continues.
Early this month, Customs officials at the Dar es Salaam Port seized a container of ivory tusks reportedly being shipped to China.
In November last year, the anti-smuggling unit, police and Tanzania Intelligence Services impounded tusks weighing 2,915 kilogrammes with a street value of $4.7million (over 7.48bn/-) at Malindi Port in Zanzibar. They were packed in 50-kilogramme plastic bags.
In order to cover up the haul, the suspects packed sea shells in some of the bags before placing them at the entry point of a container.
Last year the government launched an anti-poaching operation dubbed Tokomeza Ujangili. But it was suspended after allegations that it was not abiding by principles of human rights and the country’s constitution.
But soon after the suspension that culminated in the sacking of four cabinet ministers in December, at least 60 elephants were reported to have been killed in the country’s national parks and game reserves.
Ministers who were involved in the operation and thus lost their were those of Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki; Livestock Development, Dr Mathayo David Mathayo, Home Affairs, Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi as well as Defence and National Service, Shamsi Vuai Nahodha.