By Ashery Mkama
Religious leaders have moral authority and a large population of followers who can be mobilised to promote conservation of ecosystems in a quest to combat crimes committed against wildlife and the environment in the country.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, said that spiritual leaders in collaboration with the government can play a great role in ensuring that natural resources are preserved for the benefit of current and future generations.
"You should enlighten your followers in connection with the consequences of destroying natural resources as well as killing wild animals.
This heinous practice should stop for the benefit of current and future generations, Mr Nyalandu told reporters in Dar es Salaam.
He was making his opening remarks at the Tanzania National Conference: Religion and Conservation Alliance, which brought together various stakeholders including ambassadors and high commissioners, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly and religious leaders.
He insisted that if the campaign to stop criminality on wildlife and the environment is not being given serious consideration and support, hence natural resources will disappear in the coming couple of years.
Commenting on the current situation of wildlife poaching, the minister pointed out that the government has succeeded in controlling the problem whereby for the last four months, there was no crime reported especially in Selous Game Reserves and other national parks countrywide.
He ordered those families which in one way or another are engaged in illegal activities in wildlife and owning illegal weapons to stop it immediately and surrender them to the authorities before strict legal action is taken, warning that relevant authorities are working day and night to look and bring them to justice.
The Dar es Salaam Region Chief Sheikh, Alhaj Musa Salum, said that animals have their right to live and those who kill them should do it in a proper, legal manner.
Earlier, the chairman of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), Dr Kaush Arha, expressed delight over the intensified protection of wildlife, but cautioned that the war was far from over.
"Tanzania is recognised for its commitment to democracy, security and freedom even to her neighbours. The country is endowed with tremendous natural heritage.
We need to work together to stop poaching. Survival of wildlife is a matter of concern for generations to come, Dr Arha said. On his part, the Executive Chairman of IPP Ltd, Dr Reginald Mengi, said the rate of elephant poaching is alarming and could lead to extinction of them.