Sunday, January 5, 2014

Police Announce Full-scale War Against Elephant Poachers to Save Tanzania's Tourism Industry

African elephants

The police in Tanzania's Katavi region have recently declared constant surveillance following reports of poachers working closely with local citizens to sneak into the Katavi National Park to kill elephants. Information obtained from different sources indicated that corrupt local associates work closely with poachers by providing them information regarding locations of law enforcement officials and places where elephants can be easily spotted. Dhahiri Kidavashari, commander of the Katavi Regional Police, has vowed that serious patrolling and investigating by the police in partnership with other shareholders to reveal operators behind poaching. The pledged patrol by the police came in the wake of troublesome reports by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism about chaotic killing of hundreds of elephants in 2013. The ghastly situation convinced establishing of an anti-poaching operation titled "Tokomeza" in September. However, the operation got suspended due to violation of human rights. Commander Kidavashari remembered one incident that occurred on Christmas Eve, in which two suspects believed to be hard-core poachers barely escaped arrest during a police chase. The suspects carried a 19-kg black bag while riding a motorcycle on the Mpanda-Kigoma main road. When they came close to the Kabungu village in the Mpanda District, they were met by a police patrol coming from an opposite direction. Commander Kidavashari further added that the suspects ignored the police when they stopped them. This resulted in a chase and when the suspects were convinced that their attempt was going to fail, they abandoned the motorcycle with a registration number T113 AVJ and the black bag containing seven pieces of elephant tusks worth $45 million. Unfortunately, the police could not provide the suspects' identities who were still at large.

Although I'm proud of the way the Tanzanian police have made it official to keep a sharp, yet constant lookout for poachers, I'm also deeply troubled by the fact that many of the local people had been collaborating with the poachers in providing them valuable tips and information. This includes where elephants can easily be spotted and where law enforcement officials are known to frequent. This also indicates that the local citizens in the Katavi region are impacting Tanzania's tourism industry. One local resident explained that as part of this illicit partnership, well-positioned poachers are known to give heavy artillery to local people in return for a token. I feel that Tanzanian police should also establish another strategy, which involves a community outreach program which engages locals of the Katavi region in the education about the dangers of poaching and what they can do to help prevent the practice. One way is to persuade the public to collaborate with the police and other authorities, and keep them informed about any suspected poaching activities in the region.

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