By Marc Nkwame
Longido — There has never been a single case of jumbo poaching in the vast wilderness stretching over a 500-kilometre borderline that separates Tanzania and Kenya for nearly five years now.
According to wildlife officials, mapping northern Tanzania and southern Kenya precincts, elephants and other wild animals have started to replenish in the vicinity where Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Longido, West- Kilimanjaro and Engaresero operate.
The joint patrol missions are being coordinated by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), which operates both in Kenya and Tanzania and, according to AWF reports, the initiative has been very successful in eliminating poaching along the multinational corridor.
The head of Enduimet Wildlife Management Area in Longido district, Mr Komolo Simeli, said in addition to training local, communitybased game scouts to patrol the area, the WMAs in Kenya and Tanzania also involve villagers, cattle herders and women who gather firewood to look out for any poaching suspects and report them promptly.
"Since all residents living along both sides of the Kenya- Tanzania border speak almost same language, communication or alarms are usually conveyed using traditional signals that are very effective on that poachers do not understand what is taking place," said Mr Simeli.
Mr Julius Cheptei ,the deputy director of Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) in charge of the Southern Zone, said:
"We conducted wildlife survey in 2010 when a total of 1200 elephants were counted and when another census was repeated late last year, the results have just revealed an increase of 700 jumbos and now the Longido-Oloitokitok- West-Kilimanjaro eco-system has over 1900 elephants."
Mr Cheptei pointed out that the scouting patrols recently discovered four dead elephant carcasses in West- Kilimanjaro but these had their tusks intact indicating that the Jumbos either succumbed to natural deaths or were killed amid human versus wildlife confrontations, also common in the precinct where elephants are believed to destroy farm crops.
Mr John Saleh, the Director for the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), said while the joint anti-poaching drive between Kenya and Tanzania officials is bearing fruits, the latter must address penalties issued to culprits as they happen to be a bit lenient compared to Kenya.
"Kenya sentences up to 40 years for offenders and imposes a fine of 20 million Kenyan shillings for poachers and dealers in government trophies and that is equivalent to 35 million/- here, but Tanzania normally charges 20 million/-, and even that is subject to the magistrates' whims," he said.
The joint patrol missions conducted along the territorial boundary were hatched four years ago, meant to curb poaching and illegal harvesting of forests and while at that, the scouts have also been dealing with curbing smuggling cases through cross-border routes all the way from Namanga-Longido to Oloitokitok- Rombo, which is soon to extend to as far as Loliondo.