By Christopher Majaliwa
A 47-year-old Vietnam national was on Wednesday arrested by security personnel at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) on Wednesday after he was found in possession of government trophies worth over 180m/-.
Tanzania Airports Police Commander, Mr Hamisi Seleman, told reporters in Dar es Salaam that the suspect, Dong Van, was held when about to board Qatar Airways flight to Vietnam through Doha.
"After security officers at the airport became suspicious of him, his luggage was immediately searched in which they found 65 and 447 lion teeth and claws respectively," he noted.
He said the suspect had wrapped up the trophies by using nylon bags in a way that it was difficult to detect the hidden trophies. Mr Seleman pointed out that the police are currently interrogating the suspect to get details that could also lead to more details and suspects.
"We are holding this man for questioning after which we are going to file a case against him," he noted. He noted that to get 65 lion's teeth means that about 15 animals were killed while about 22 lions were also likely to have been massacred to get 447 claws.
He observed that following stringent measures by the government to curb elephant killings, poachers have now turned to lions, which were not previously targeted.
Mr Seleman affirmed that much effort was needed to ensure that all kinds of wildlife are protected as the incident has proved that almost every animal was threatened. He explained that cases of government trophy trafficking have decreased this year compared to the past.
For instance, he said that in the period between January and July this year, only three foreigners were nabbed in sharp contrast to yesteryears when the number of such arrests was very high.
Mr Seleman appealed to members of the public to cooperate with security organs in curbing the vice. "Anyone could tip off the police any time he or she suspects the presence of such criminals.
Without team work, this war will be hard to win," he remarked.