By Bilham Kimati
The government has announced the establishment of a Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), whose operations are expected to not only increase revenue from Tanzania's national parks, forests and game reserves, but also intensify conservation of wildlife.
Announcing this new development in the fight against poaching in Dar es Salaam, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, assured delegates to the Summit to Combat Wildlife Trafficking and Illicit Trade, of affirmative action.
"Zero tolerance to corrupt and inefficient elements in the protection of elephants, rhinos and wildlife at large will be enhanced," Mr Nyalandu said.
In addition to the supply of necessary working tools such as vehicles for surveillance and other equipment, said the minister, 430 trained game rangers would be hired.
"Within this financial year (2014/15) 500 extra game rangers will be hired to bring to 930 the total number of game rangers, to cover designated wildlife habitats covering 112,000 square kilometres.
Three modern helicopters are due to arrive in the country and pilots have left for training in South Africa," Mr Nyalandu clarified.
The Wildlife Authority Bill was passed in November 2013. Giving details on TAWA's modus operandi, the minister said a powerful disciplinary committee would be established to coordinate and harmonise its operations to sustain good working relationship with communities.
"Laws and synergies must be observed for sustainable anti-poaching crusade to avoid the repetition of previous mistakes during operation 'Tokomeza' held towards the end of last year," explained the minister.
Morogoro would be the TAWA headquarters. He said the names of the TAWA board would be announced shortly, adding that they would be chosen from among persons of high integrity.
'Tokomeza' was a short-lived and reportedly marred with irregularities and accused of fuelling violation of human rights by a few entrusted security organs. Legislators called for its suspension and wanted all the culprits behind the violations taken to task.
The Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, assured the international community of the government's commitment to stop poaching and thanked nations for the readiness to support local efforts to combat the menace. "Statistics indicate that poaching reached such an alarming level that 13,084 elephants were killed in 2013.
This is alarming. Sophisticated combat is very important. Funding is equally of great importance," Dr Bilal explained. He said President Jakaya Kikwete has said that Tanzania had nothing to hide about the struggle against poaching and the international support would be highly appreciated.
Dr Kaush Arha, chairman of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), described the summit as a 'day of hope and optimism,' whereby representatives from across the continents had the opportunity to come together to discuss and deliberate on strategies to stop the killing of elephants and rhinos.
"Tanzania is recognised for its commitment to democracy, security and freedom even of its neighbours. The country is endowed with tremendous natural heritage.
We need to work together to reverse the trend (poaching). Survival of the wildlife is a matter of concern for generations to come," Arha insisted.
The ICCF works with the leadership of bipartisan US Congressional International Conservation Caucus (ICC), to educate policymakers on issues that increase the effectiveness of government support for international conservation projects.
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Job Ndugai, who is also a trained game warden, called for the establishment of a comprehensive coordinated anti-poaching network drawing members from different sectors and the local communities taking the centre stage.
"The establishment of TAWA is timely. It will address effectively the challenge of poaching. However, motivation and supply of good equipment to rangers or another operation 'Tokomeza' is not enough.
We need to have in place a well coordinated system to stop the illicit trade," Ndugai explained. Mr Reginald Mengi, who is also Chairman of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), suggested that there should be no leniency to convicted ivory traders.
"The law provides two options; jail sentence or penalty which is relatively insignificant. They will pay the penalty quite happily. The penalty option must be removed and make them serve jail sentences," Mr Mengi proposed.