Tanzania last week reiterated its call to the international community to ban trade on ivory and rhino products in order to counter the escalating poaching of the critically endangered animals.
The leading markets of the animal trophies, notably China, Japan, the Koreas, Vietnam,Thailand and other Asian countries were also requested to immediately stop buying elephant tusks and rhino horns.
“Without putting an end to international trade in these products, the war against poaching will be futile”, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said at the climax of the Elephant and Rhino March in Arusha last week.
The event was aimed at creating awareness on the wanton killing of the critically endangered jumbos and rhinos which are among the iconic animals in the multi-million dollar tourism industry but whose survival is threatened.
It is estimated that about 10,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers in Tanzania which currently has less than 70,000 jumbos. Presently, the country has only 123 remaining rhinos from about 10,000 in 1970.
Statistics from conservation activists indicate that one elephant is killed by poachers every 15 minutes in Africa and one black rhino eliminated every nine hours in the continent.
Another report had it that more than 35,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa so their tusks can be curved into ivory trinkets. At the same time, more than 1,000 rhinos are slaughtered each year for its horn.
Unlike the ivory which is used to make covers for handlers of daggers and other items, the rhino horns are in high demand mainly in the Asian market as a sex stimulant, though not scientifically proved.
The minister told a crowd at the Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium that Tanzania will collaborate with the East African Community (EAC) partner states as well as Mozambique to fight the poachers.
“We will also use all the state organs to unmask those responsible for carnage of our national heritage”, he said, adding that establishment of a semi-autonomous Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TWA) would boost the fight.
Intensified protection of the jumbos has seen increased number of the animals in the Serengeti ecosystem, he said, adding that no killing of the elephants has been reported in the Selous Game Reserve in the last three months.
The minister’s plea to the world to stop trade in ivory and rhino horns products were echoed by the chairperson of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) Mr. Wilbard Chambullo.
The official asked the government to act firmly on greedy people. He said they were behind the wildlife carnage as well as intensify patrol against gunmen in game sanctuaries “in order to protect our jumbos and rhinos”.
Chambullo said Tanzania and other African countries must put international pressure on the leading markets for the rhino horns and elephant tusks to stop buying the trophies.
He called for the revival of ‘Operation Tokomeza’ which was launched last year to fight the poachers but later suspended. He also pleaded to the government to award individuals who sacrificed a lot to protect the country’s wildlife heritage.
The October 14th five kilometre march was timed to coincide with Nyerere Memorial Day. The Father of Nation and first president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere died in a London hospital on October 14th, 1999.
The late Nyerere is credited for his firm support to the conservation agenda which has seen at least 200,000 square kilometres or nearly a quarter of the country’s land surface reserved for wildlife conservation.