By Simbarashe Msasanuri
Tanzania for the first time on Sunday marked the National Elephant Day that was introduced to raise public awareness by showing the threats facing the elephant population in Africa.
It remains an open secret that poaching is a thorn in the flesh for African states, threatening not only the jumbos' extinction but other wild animals such as rhinos, whose tusks are in demand particularly in Asia.
Poaching, especially of elephants and rhinos in this country, continue unabated despite efforts by the government to mitigate it. According to available statistics, Tanzania loses 30 elephants to poaching every day and a shocking 10,000 every year, something that cannot be tolerated. The same applies to the continent, where the jumbo population has shrunk to 470,000 today from more than 1.3 million elephants in 1977.
As a result of rampant poaching, a lot of tusks, smuggled from this country have been confiscated abroad, raising questions as to how they got there. In mid-November, last year, customs officers in Hong Kong seized 500 pieces of ivory tusks from Tanzania worth $1.4 million (2.24bn/-). The 500 pieces weighing 1,300 kilogrammes were found hidden in a shipping container that arrived in the Asian country from Tanzania.
That meant that a total of 250 elephants were killed in Tanzania in order to export the 500 pieces of tusks. Earlier in 2011, officials seized a shipment of ivory and rhinoceros horns valued at $2.2 million Hong Kong dollars. Hong Kong is viewed as a transit point for the illegal ivory trade, feeding into increasing demand in China.
As if that was not enough, police in Dar es Salaam in October, last year, arrested two Kenyans and a Tanzanian in unlawful possession of 214 elephant tusks and five bones of the mammal worth 2.1bn/- at Kimara Stop Over area in Kinondoni Municipality. More....