Tanzania steps up efforts to tackle wildlife smuggling

Tuesday July 23 2019

An elephant in Mikumi National Park, which borders the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania on October 14, 2013.

An elephant in Mikumi National Park, which borders the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania on October 14, 2013. Tanzania has previously been called the epicentre of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis after a government census revealed a 60 per cent decline in its elephant population between 2009 and 2014. PHOTO | AFP 

BOB KARASHANI
By BOB KARASHANI
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Authorities in charge of Tanzania’s main seaports will prioritise specific actions such as improving risk profiling systems as part of new efforts to tackle smuggling wildlife out of the country.

A meeting last week in the main port city of Dar es Salaam also resolved to adopt fresh strategies for better inter-agency and public-private sector collaboration, stronger investigative capacity and smoother information exchange to support the cause.

Risk profiling is an evaluation of willingness and ability to take risks, and can also refer to the threats involved, in this case, the agencies directly involved in battling wildlife traffickers.

The meeting under the auspices of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism’s Wildlife Division, Tanzania Ports Authority and Tanzania Revenue Authority is a key part of overall precautions as Tanzania’s annual hunting season got underway at the beginning of July.

Around this time each year, international tourists flock to Tanzania to witness the seasonal migration of wildebeest and other wild animals across the Serengeti grassland, which is home to over 20 migratory species.

ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE

And with Tanzania also being a major gateway to the East African hinterland, Dar es Salaam is a key African port. It handles about 95 per cent of the country’s entire international trade.

The participants, who included representatives from private sector, law enforcement agencies and non-profit organisations, noted that Tanzania’s reputation as a biodiversity hotspot with strong international transport links makes its seaports more vulnerable to wildlife trafficking.

“Collaboration among ourselves becomes even more critical when considering the growing network of illegal wildlife dealers worldwide. It is only by sharing intelligence on the tactics used by poachers and traffickers that we can build a united front against them,” said Robert Mande, assistant director of the anti-poaching unit in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Over the past decade alone, Tanzanian ports have been at the centre of several large-scale and high-profile illegal live wildlife seizures and interceptions of shipments of ivory, leopard skins, shark fins and other wildlife products.

Tanzania has previously been called the epicentre of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis after a government census revealed a 60 per cent decline in its elephant population between 2009 and 2014.

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