By Lucas Liganga
The recent suspension of the anti-poaching operation code-named Tokomeza appears not to have disheartened the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki. He remains in the frontline, leading to volumes of elephant tusks being seized by authorities in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
Under normal circumstances, the minister would have felt frustrated when the anti-poaching operation was suspended after MPs complained about human rights violations in the course of the operation. But the seasoned diplomat probably goes by the saying that pioneers are the ones who get bitten by snakes.
Mr Kagasheki is still urging people with information on the smuggling networks to come forward and tell the authorities what they know in order to curb the illegal trade.
Poaching in Tanzania has reached alarming proportions. Some 797 tusks were seized in three recent raids, indicating that about 400 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks.
On November 7, 2013, President Jakaya Kikwete said poaching of elephants in Tanzania was upsetting and vowed that no stone would be left unturned in the search for poachers.
Addressing Parliament in Dodoma, President Kikwete said the suspended Tokomeza (Wipe Out) anti-poaching operation involving the army, the police and other security organs would resume after the hitches were sorted out.
He added: “The problem (poaching) is frightening. A lot of ivory has been impounded inside and outside the country. In total, we are talking of about 36 tonnes of tusks, which equals around 15,000 elephants.”
At independence in 1961, Tanzania had 350,000 elephants. This plummeted to about 55,000 in 1989. But an anti-poaching operation mounted in the 1980s resulted in the population of elephants rising to more than 100,000.
The authorities have asked the Frankfurt Zoological Society to carry out a census to establish the current elephant population. More....