Tanzania’s new anti-poaching effort to halt corruption and mega-elephant slaughter

Tanzania’s new anti-poaching effort to halt corruption and mega-elephant slaughter
March 21, 2016 eso

President John Magufuli’s tough anti-corruption stance may save Tanzania’s national herd.

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[Photo] Elephants in Tanzania. Courtesy Pixabay commons

Two years ago, torture, extortion and murder brought down Tanzania’s infamous anti-poaching campaign. The Operesheni Tokomeza Ujangili campaign was so badly managed that government heads rolled. A new anti-poaching campaign that will be less militarised was unveiled yesterday.

Talking to the Guardian, the permanent secretary for tourism and Natural resources Major General Milanzi said that the new campaign will be a “special” one and will “address the poaching problems” in the country.

The new campaign will be aimed at gathering intelligence. There are already sniffer dogs in airports and other intelligence operations will bring poachers to book without the threat of military violence. The new approach is to try and effectively get ahead of the poaching gangs without the intimidation, violence and death that took place under the failed Ujangile operation.

Decimation of the elephant herds

In 1989, the poaching of elephants was becoming endemic in the country. Despite opposition from many quarters, Tanzania declared a ban on the international of trade of ivory. For some years, the ban appeared to be holding off the onslaught and the elephant population started to recover. However, twenty years later, the onslaught resumed with greater intensity. Tanzania rose to prominence as a “key” country in the illegal trade. In a report entitled “the Vanishing Point,” the Environmental Investigation Agency pointed out that half of Tanzania’s elephants were killed in just five years.

The failed Operesheni Tokomeza Ujangili Campaign was formed to try and combat the terrible slaughter of elephants. It was the Tanzanian ivory that was being found in large quantities in Asia. The pace of the poaching demanded a strong reaction and the campaign was undertaken with enthusiasm, which was driven by the fact that the country was losing 30 elephants a day to poachers. However, due to corruption local communities, terrorised into supporting the poachers, also became terrorised by their own government.

Corruption at all levels in criminal poaching

Investigations by the EIA revealed that much of the poaching was due to corruption in government. By 2013, the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index listed Tanzania a 111 out of 127 countries. It was alleged that the poaching crisis involved corruption through all levels of governance, from game rangers who notified poaching gangs where to find the animals, through to police officers who “rented weapons and vehicles” and customs officers who turned a blind eye. Members of parliament and ministers were accused of deep involvement in trafficking.

Dr Magufuli and zero tolerance for corruption

The fallout has led to a new government, led by Dr. John Magufuli, who has been hailed as a breath of fresh air though his zero tolerance of corruption. National Geographic reported in 2015, that President Magufuli said in his opening speech that poaching and corruption would be high on his agenda. His tough approach, coupled with a determined General Secretary of natural resources will hopefully see the new anti-poaching campaign make some headway against the criminal onslaught that is destroying the national elephant herd of Tanzania.

Article by: Jane Flowers posted in the NEWS HUB.