By Kevin Heath
Further success from the recent crackdown in poaching has been announced including the discovery of 89 elephant tusks being transported in a saloon car on October 29th – just hours before the operation was ordered to shut down amidst claims of abuses. The tusks were found close to Masasi township at a road checkpoint.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki has asked the public to be tolerant and not lose patience while his team works through all the evidence gathered and further arrests are made. He warned though that the ordering of the suspension of Operation Tokomeza could have interfered with evidence gathering and investigation of those at the top of the elephant poaching trade in Tanzania.
Kagasheki was paying a visit to the Lukwika-Lumesule-Msanjesi Game Reserve where he was examining items seized during the operation. Apart from the elephants tusks taken from the car he was also shown thousands of pieces of sawn timber that had been confiscated from illegal loggers operating in the region’s wildlife reserve.
Kagasheki also used the visit to call for a review of the operation’s suspension as elephant poaching and illegal logging was still going on in the country.
The minister heard from senior wildlife officials that during the anti-poaching campaign in the Southern Sector 397 suspects had been arrested and so far 308 had appeared in court and charged. The sector had also seen 5 deaths and 11 injuries during the 3 weeks of the operation.