By Deodatus Balile
Tanzania is taking steps to combat the rise in elephant and rhinoceros poaching by deploying army personnel and camera-equipped drones to engage in anti-poaching operations. According to the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, poaching has drastically reduced the elephant population to fewer than 70,000 in 2012 from about 109,000 in 2009.
Amid outcries from lawmakers about the increase in poaching, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Khamis Sued Kagasheki told parliament on Thursday (May 2nd) that President Jakaya Kikwete has authorised the deployment of army units for anti-poaching operations.
"The president has issued the order," Kagasheki told parliament. "I have talked to Minister of Defence and National Service [Shamsi Vuai Nahodha\ and we are at the final stages. I do not say when, but we are going to do something that will be remembered by generations to come."
This is the second time the military has aided against poaching. In 1989, "Operation Uhai" helped the elephant population rebound after it reached a low of about 30,000, when it had been about 110,000 in 1976.
Parliamentarians welcome decision
Opposition lawmaker Peter Msigwa said he supports the president's decision to send in troops to ward off poachers, but said the government should have taken this action five years ago.
"In 2008, the poaching problem was as big as it is now," he told Sabahi. "The public outcry to deploy the army was high, but the government did not want to listen to us."
Countries should unite to stop the worldwide trade in "dirty tusks", he said, as this fast-growing illicit trade comes at the expense of Tanzania's natural resources.
Before parliament on Friday, Gosbert Blandes, a lawmaker representing Karagwe district, said the proposed military operation should begin immediately. More....