Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tanzania: Poaching of lions, other wildlife on the rise

27 June 2009
Arusha Times

Arusha — Poaching cases are on the increase in Loliondo game controlled area in contrast to limited number of game rangers in the vicinity.

The Ngorongoro District Wildlife Officer Betekire Rubunga said there are just four game rangers including him, to patrol the rather large game controlled area, "We also have only one vehicle, a single-cabin Land-Rover 110 Tdi, which had resumed operation last week after being grounded for repairs since December 2008," said Rubunga.

Loliondo game controlled area measures 4000 square kilometers much of it being jungle, savannah bush land and hill ranges. That kind of topography coupled with underdeveloped infrastructure in the area impede rapid movement in case of emergency and works in favor of better equipped poachers.

"The entire landscape is dotted with traps, snares and dug out pits. The problem with these traps is that they catch both the intended and unintended animal ," said the Officer adding that poachers also use military-like heavy guns.

According to the Wildlife Officer, his department has been making arrests " within the first four months of this year, we have nabbed several offenders and a total of five cases been taken to court by the end of April 2009"

"We sometimes get assistance from the Loliondo based Ortello Business Corporation (OBC) which operates a hunting block in the vicinity and in some cases from the anti-poaching units based in Arusha," said the Wildlife Officer explaining that in order to be effective his department needs at least 10 more warders in the area plus an addition vehicle.

Between January and December last year a total of 15 illegal hunters were arrested three of whom were sentenced up to 15 years in jail with other cases going on at the District Magistrate Court. "The nation incurred a loss of over Tsh 30 million from such practices in 2008," stated Mr Rubunga.

According to the wildlife officer figures of the previous year 2007 indicate total arrests of 12 poachers who were apprehended and taken to court with most of them now serving various jail sentences.

The Wildlife officer explained that mot illegal game hunters come from Mara region and neighboring Kenya. He also pointed out that there is an increase of Zebra killings in the Game controlled areas mainly for the animal's skins which of late have been on high demand.

Elephants are also a favorite kill of the poachers; "We keep coming across carcasses of these large land mammals everywhere we go within the Game Controlled Area and so far we have recorded six recently killed Jumbos three in Njoloi Ward and other three in Arash village," he stated.

All the carcasses have been missing their tusks providing clear motives of their planned deaths.

Other than poaching, witchcraft beliefs are also said to be taking toll on wildlife killings, "We recently caught a suspect with teeth of recently killed lions," said Mr. Rubunga adding that upon further probing it turned out that the teeth were ordered by a witch doctor.

Lions have also been victims of 'Prestigious hunting' among local indigenous tribes like the Maasai who kill the ferocious animals to prove their manhood.

"We have had five cases of prestigious Lion killings, but as time goes by, buffaloes keep being added to the list of such ritual poaching, this year has debuted with one case of a large male buffalo that was killed to prove somebody's bravery in the community," said Mr Rubunga.


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