By Adam Ihucha
Tanzania has offered poachers unlimited amnesty, saying they would be forgiven if they surrendered but they would face the "full might" of state wrath if they did not.
“The state would pardon poachers who would willingly surrender to the authorities” announced the Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Lazaro Nyalandu at the climax of the Elephant and Rhino March in Arusha.
Mr Nyalandu also used the march to implore women to press their spouses with element of poaching to surrender before it was too late, as those who fail would soon face the full wrath of the law.
“Common sense dictates that women are powerful when it comes to deal with their spouses. Talk to them to surrender before it’s too late for the sake of the family” he stressed.
The cabinet minister, however, made a passionate call to the international community to ban trade on ivory and rhino products in order to stop the heightening poaching of the threatened wildlife.
He also urged the Asian population to stop purchasing products with elephant tusks and rhino horns.
Unlike the ivory, which is a raw material for making covers for handlers of daggers and other items, the rhino horns are in high demand mainly in the Asian market, as it is believed that it is an effective sex energizer.
Tour operators and conservationists are warning that the African elephant and rhinos are doomed to extinction, if the states and stakeholders do not act.
Chairman of Tanzania Tour Operators Association (TATO), Mr. Willy chambulo says that the wildlife-rich country will have no elephant left by 2020, possibly earlier at current rates of loss.
“We may have as few as 100 Black Rhino left in Tanzania and all of them are protected at excessive expense. Their future is precarious” Mr. Chambulo told the audience.
According to him, Tanzania has been losing an estimated 9-10,000 elephants per annum. It is estimated that nearly 70,000 elephants left down from approximately 106, 000 in 2009 and 200,000 in 1970.
Though the extent of poaching, particularly in the South and West of the country appears to have slowed down more census work is expected in these areas to compare with the census taken at the same time last year.
Globally wildlife campaigners say an estimated 35,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos are killed each year as demand for ivory and rhino horn drives increasing poaching rates.
This demand means both species could potentially be wiped out within the next 20 years.
Chambulo further said the existing policy was partly to blame for escalating poaching of elephants and rhino.
He said ordinary Tanzanians surrounding the resources were sitting on the fence, as they perceived the treasure trove was not theirs, but belonged to the State.
The policy should have considered availing more opportunities for ordinary Tanzanians to directly reap benefits accrued from natural resources.
Community in and around wildlife-protected areas could fight poaching effectively, if they are meaningfully benefiting from the resources.
TATO chief said that the government has no option rather than to embrace the community if the war against poaching is to be won.
“The communities in and around the wildlife protected areas feel that the animals are the state properties and that they have no direct link with their lives” Chambullo stressed.
Tuesday’s seven km’s march was timed to coincide with Nyerere Memorial Day. The Father of Nation and first president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere died in a London hospital on October 14th, 1999.
The late Nyerere is the man behind the support to the conservation drive that saw around 200,000 sq. km or nearly a quarter of the country's land surface reserved for wildlife conservation.
Way back in 1961, Nyerere issued the Arusha Manifesto, which articulated the country's determine to conserve the wildlife for the future livelihood and well being.