Tanzania’s law enforcement, tasked with the protection of wildlife and the fight against poaching, is increasingly becoming assertive again in Tanzania, having gained newfound confidence that the country’s new political leadership is supporting them in meeting their objectives.
Freed from the previous shackles of corruption and often blatant interference in such investigations – the Kikwete regime was after all presiding over the mass slaughter of the country’s large herds of elephant by the tens of thousands without as much as moving a finger until global outrage began to spoil the party – has the anti-poaching taskforce since the regime change recorded several major successes in arresting suspects including two kingpins in the dying days of the Kikwete presidency when they knew that no one would dare any longer to intervene on behalf of those nabbed.
Just before Christmas were another two arrests carried out in Dar es Salaam and over 200 kilograms of blood ivory confiscated, estimated to be worth some US$670,000.
Tanzania’s new President John Magufuli at a very early stage already took aim at the poaching menace which he said was spoiling Tanzania’s reputation abroad and which certainly led to a downturn in visitor numbers as several conservation organizations abroad began to decampaign the destination over the Kikwete regime’s appalling record of anti-poaching measures.
While a “recount” in the greater Ruaha conservation area has established that the slaughter there was not as extensive as initially thought has in particular the Selous Game Reserve taken major hits in the elephant population with some 57.000 elephant lost during the last two game counts.
The new Magufuli government has also energetically moved ahead in plugging the leaks into and out of the main port of Dar es Salaam through which in the past massive ivory shipments were made without detection, suggesting that port and Revenue Authority staff were involved in the smuggling, often only coming into the public domain when entire container loads of blood ivory were found in South East Asian ports in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, all enroute into China.
Hope has been expressed by conservationists in Tanzania that both TAWA and TANAPA, the Tanzania Wildlife Authority and the Tanzania National Park Authority, will now be given a much greater leeway to hunt down poachers and prosecute them now that the new government has embarked on a massive anti-corruption drive and already sacked and taken to course key individuals from the Kikwete area, including the former Director General of the Tanzania Revenue Authority.