Tanzania: Northern Serengeti No Longer Free From Marauding Poachers


By Mugini Jacob, Tanzania Daily News

Date Published

THE seizure of six pieces of elephant tusks worth 20m/- by security personnel in Tarime District on January 24 proves that the northern part of Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) isn’t free from poachers.

Police say the tusks were impounded from a person who was travelling from Kegonga village to unknown destination. Kegonga is one of the villages in Tarime District bordering northern part of the world famous animal sanctuary.

Justus Kamugisha, the special zone police commander in Tarime/Rorya confirms that the suspect was arrested at the Itiryo village shortly after boarding a mini-bus in Kegonga village. “He was arrested by police officers after the tusks were found in his bag covered with clothes,” Kamugisha said.

He named the suspect as 39-year-old Bahait Julias Hunga, a resident of Msati village in Tarime district. Reports from Kegonga village say Hunga was seen at the village a day before his arrest.

“We saw the man at our village in the afternoon, and one could easily tell that he wasn’t a resident of Kegonga. We were shocked to hear that he had been arrested with elephant tusks the following morning.

This is tarnishing the image of our village,” said a villager. During interrogation, Kamugisha said the suspect disclosed his accomplices. They are Steven Sulusi (31), Yona Sulusi (48) and Said Lumician (30).

“These suspects are involved in killing elephants and are involved in ivory business. We are making further investigations,” he said. Kamugisha urged villagers living near the Serengeti to co-operate with security organs in fighting poaching.

Reports from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism says 30 elephants are being killed by poachers in the country every day. The ivory trade has of late become a serious concern in Tanzania.

Last year, the government launched a nationwide anti-poaching drive christened Operation Tokomeza to contain the crime in the country. This operation was suspended after it was found out that officials had engaged in maltreatment of innocent citizens.

Land disputes between conservators and some livestock keepers is another serious problem that has of late been threatening the ecological balance of the northern part of SENAPA. Some villagers in Tarime have been grazing their animals inside the park for lack of land.

Grazing in a national park is illegal according the Tanzanian Conservation Act. Authorities in Tarime are convinced that some herders have been taking advantage of grazing in the park to engage on poaching. “We cannot stay and see the world heritage being destroyed.

The park is significant for us and for the entire world,” Tarime District Commissioner Mr John Henjewele said recently. SENAPA wardens have been confiscating cattle grazing in the park, forcing livestock-keepers to pay heavy fines.

Mr William Mwakilema, the SENAPA Chief Park Warden has repeatedly been urging livestock keepers to respect the existing boundaries separating the park and neighbouring villages.

Mara Regional Commissioner Mr John Tuppa has instructed the Tarime District Council to support introduction of land use plan in the villages located near the park, a move which he believes would help to minimise conflicts between villagers and wardens.

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