“We want to ensure that no wild animal is illegally killed in our country and that wildlife benefits the people of this country, both the present and future generations,” he said at a handover ceremony of donated vehicles and law enforcement equipment by Integrated Wildlife Protection Project (WPP).
Thirty-six people were arrested for rhino-related cases, and 58 arrested for elephant-related cases so far this year, compared to 80 people and 98 people arrested in similar cases in 2021, respectively, according to the minister.
Daily operations were severely affected by COVID-19 and it has been extremely difficult to maintain and manage activities such as water provision to game, wildlife crime prevention, inspections, and law enforcement, human-wildlife conflict management, infrastructure development, rural community involvement, and participation in wildlife management, Shifeta said.
According to the minister, the support comes at a time when the country is experiencing an increase in crime against wildlife particularly rhinos and pangolins which are closely linked to the international trade of species and their products.
“Over the past years, we have directed our focus towards the law enforcement component of conservation in an effort to protect the country’s natural resources, mainly wildlife from illegal hunting and trade. Various approaches have been implemented to curb the onslaught of species such as rhino, elephant, and pangolin that are especially sought after by poaching syndicates due to the value of their products,” he said. “This included the recruitment of additional anti-poaching officials, deployment of vehicles, and construction of patrol camps in critical areas that are severely affected by poaching. We have trained and equipped the Rangers of the Wildlife Protection Services (WPS), provided 4×4 training courses for our MEFT and WPS staff members, and trained and equipped MEFT staff with the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, simply referred to as SMART.”
To strengthen the efforts to protect wildlife, they have increased visibility through foot and aerial patrols in all hotspot areas, especially in the national parks and tourism areas, Shifeta said.
Eight live pangolins have been seized so far this year compared to 21 in 2021, while 24 pangolin skins have been seized compared to 66 skins in 2021, he said, adding that 48 suspects have been arrested in connection with pangolin-related cases this year, compared to 129 in 2021.