HARSHER PENALTIES IN THE MAKING FOR POACHING
The recent Wildlife Conservation Foundation Tanzania annual fundraising dinner in Dar es Salaam brought a number of issues to the forefront in the speeches given by foundation leaders and guests, which have moved the conservation fraternity in East Africa’s largest country for months and years.
Responding to the remarks made by WCFT representative Sir Andy Chande in regard of inadequate anti poaching measures by government and its agencies, low fines and short penalties for poaching and transiting of prohibited birdlife, wildlife and trophies, the country’s Vice President Dr. Bilal explained that a major review of the relevant provisions of the governing laws was underway. He went on to tell the assembled guests that government shared the concerns of conservationists over low fines and short jail terms and would introduce amendments to those provisions in parliament soon. The new regime would inflict long jail terms for poachers, their middlemen and financiers when found guilty while fines would be prohibitive to deter poachers from their criminal activities.
The minister for natural resources and tourism too spoke on the occasion, thanking the foundation for their generosity over the past 10 years since the foundation was formed, when over 50 vehicles and much needed materials, equipment and supplies had been donated for anti poaching purposes. He also clarified on government’s stand against poaching, claiming it is honest and true and not a half gap measure.
However, in view of the presence of foundation donors which included representatives of mining interest groups, there was also criticism about not bringing up other related burning issues like the planned highway across the main migration routes in the Serengeti – benefitting mining companies first and foremost – nor that mention was made on plans to build a hydro electric power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous.
Wrote one gala dinner participant in regular contact with this correspondent by email: ‘Leaving the real controversy out of the speeches and replies shows that everyone treads very softly here. The road across the Serengeti, the presidential directive to build the soda ash plant at Lake Natron, the revived plans for Stiegler’s Gorge and the cancellation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the Eastern Arc mountains are all equally if not more important than anti poaching measures. On one side it is poachers depleting wildlife, smuggling trophies via our airport and port but on the other hand it is government swinging the wrecking ball against nature and our environment. In a way, it is also poaching but at a much grander scale. What we conservationists want to hear, before putting our hands in our pockets to write cheques and give cash and material donations for government to boost anti poaching, is that government too is stepping back from such projects and acknowledges that there is a potential for destruction of the Serengeti as we know it. They should not wreck Stiegler’s, they should not kill off the flamingos and not basically leave the Eastern Arc mountains to logging and mineral exploitation interests. It is not right, and just because our president wants it should not be a reason to kowtow before him. We need to speak up, loud and clear and join international activities to halt such projects.’
At the same occasion last year, held in a Paris hotel, over 400.000 Euros were raised but details about the amount donated this year were not immediately available until the treasurer of WCFT officially confirms the figure at a later stage.