Dar es Salaam. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan today presided at the inauguration of the paramilitary group tasked with combating poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife organs and products.
The squad started with 313 members, female and male personnel in total, and it will operate under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
“It is my expectation that the establishment of the group will completely combat wildlife poaching in the country,” the VP said in her address.
She added: “I urge the communities living in the neighbourhood of national parks and game reserves to cooperate with the relevant government authorities in combating the illegal acts.”
The ceremony, which was broadcast live by a local TV channel, took place on Saturday at Fort Ikoma, in Serengeti District, Mara Region.
Ms Hassan further expressed her optimism that combating of poaching would boost tourism sector even more by attracting more visitors.
The move, she said, would help increase the number of wildlife which attract tourists to the allocated areas.
The government has dedicated over 25 per cent of the country’s land to wildlife protected areas (national parks, conservation areas, game reserves, and game controlled areas).
There are 16 national parks in the country that together comprise an area of more than 42,000 km2 and there are 17 game reserves.
Despite efforts to conserve wildlife, iconic species like the African elephant and rhinoceros are being poached to near extinction, causing systemic and tangible devastation to global biodiversity resources.
Tanzania was previously known as “the epicentre of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis” after a government census revealed loss of a catastrophic 60 per cent of its elephants between 2009 and 2014.
It was on this ground, the government established the National Strategy to Combat Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade (NSCPIWT) with a view on strengthening legislation and capacity to tackle poaching and wildlife trafficking at the national level.
Earlier at the ceremony, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Hamisi Kigwangalla revealed that the guards who form the paramilitary force were from the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa) and Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa), among others.
“The guards have been recruited by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF),” he said.
For his part, Parliamentary Committee for Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism chairman Nape Nnauye said: “On behalf of Parliament, I would like to sincerely commend the ministry for coming up with this initiative to combat wildlife poaching.”
He added: “Parliament is determined to cooperate with the ministry to make sure that the proposed countrywide anti-poaching operations become successful.”
The colourful event was preceded by the military parade followed by other entertainments by members of the newly inaugurated paramilitary force, attended by various former and current serving government officials including Chief of Defence Forces General Venance Mabeyo, and Mara Regional Commissioner Adam Malima, among others.