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Concerted efforts by the government and other organisations have paid off after alarming loss of wildlife
Dar es Salaam. Elephant poaching has gone down by 80 percent during the past five years, a government official said on Wednesday.
Assistant director of Anti-poaching (Wildlife Division) in the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Robert Mande, said the move was possible due to the involvement of various stakeholders in the anti-poaching drive.
The players include members of the business community – through the apex body, the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) - and ordinary citizens.
Mr Mande was speaking at a breakfast debate on biodiversity conservation and combating wildlife crime in Tanzania, that was organised by Journalist Environmental Association in Tanzania (JET), with funding from USAID.
“Since the 2015/16 financial year, the ecosystem of elephant species in Tarangire, Serengeti, Selous and Ruaha wildlife areas has drastically increased” - thereby fueling hope for sustainability of the tourism business, he said.
During the past five years, the Wildlife Division identified 3,000 suspected poachers countrywide, about 2,000 of whom have been arrested. Also, 11 major ivory dealing syndicates were disbanded, including the infamous ‘Queen of Ivory’ syndicate.
Some 914 wildlife-related cases were filed in courts during the period, 691 of which were successfully prosecuted, with 1,600 of the accused being jailed for between 10 and 20 years. Another 43 paid fines totalling about Sh2 billion.
A senior officer of the Preventing and Combating Corruption Bureau (PCCB), Mr Ally Katonya, said establishment of the National Force on Anti-Poaching (NTAP) - which brings together Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and financial institutions - has seen to the government generating Sh4.7 billion from confiscating illegal timber harvests and trafficking during the 2018/19 financial year alone.
Mr Katonya further said that forest invasion has contributed to illegal harvesting of, and trafficking in, logs in the country.
“Most such illegal activities are conducted in the regions of Tabora, Katavi, Lindi and Tanga, from where the logs are usually exported to China. Tanga is the usually preferred export point for the illegal trade in logs,” he said.
The holistic approach of private sector players, through establishment of NTAP in 2017 joint structure has brought a lot of successes in combating the smuggling. NTAP joint structures include the National Wildlife Forest Security Committee (WFSC), the National Task Force Anti-Poaching (NTAP) and the Task Coordination Group (TCG).
TPSF policy analyst Victoria Michael said private sector participation in conservation of the biodiversity has been minimally noticed and impactful. But, it should be noted that the private sector has been participating in conservation of biodiversity
According to her, the private sector is well and fully engaged in the efforts to combat wildlife-related crimes and biodiversity conservation, although such criminals are well organized in syndicates which involve poachers, transporters, financial institutions, etc.
All these key players should to be effectively involved in combating wildlife crimes, as most of them are part and parcel of the perpetration one way or another.
“Through USAID PROTECT, we formed an operational committee early this year and conducted awareness training for 291 companies and individual members on biodiversity and illegal wildlife trafficking,” she said.