CONTROLLED hunting is an important aspect in Tanzania’s economy, but when hunters invade wildlife sanctuaries to kill animals indiscriminately their activity is illegal. The current situation in game reserves is very disturbing and calls for drastic measures to save our national heritage from extinction.
What driving force is behind the rise of poaching gangs in the Selous Game Reserve for instance? Is ‘Operation Butterfly’ undertaken by the Police Force in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism likely to avert the threat that our elephants, rhinos, giraffes and many other species face?
If its code name forebodes anything, it has little to scare away illegal hunters. Butterflies don’t sting. The operation relies on rumbling aircraft to trail poachers who move surreptitiously in wooded areas. No wonder therefore the number of arrests has been very small.
The whole world knows that poaching has become a lucrative business and crooks behind it are always devising new tactics to elude every eye and device that blocks their way.
Unless the managers of ‘Operation Butterfly’ devise a better and more effective strategy, they will keep on burning fuel without cutting to the chase. Poachers always operate undercover and know many tricks of the trade. There are masterminds behind every poaching ring.
Timing is an important factor to consider as well in hunting down the poachers. Trailing their tracks in daytime only is not likely to lead to success because in most cases poachers operate late in the night when they know that nobody else would be in their zone.
Gone are the days when authorities would ‘set a thief to catch a thief’ because in present circumstances where many people don’t’ feel restrained by moral or ethical principles, it is money that speaks louder and dictates the terms.
Local communities around game reserves sometimes have played a commendable role in fighting against poachers. Their cooperation however, can be swayed by the poachers themselves who may either offer money or threaten retaliation in case their identity is revealed.
The government should, therefore, spend a little more money to acquire modern tools for hunting down poachers by pinpointing their DNA fingerprints on poached tusks and weapons used to kill animals.
In addition, diplomatic efforts should be applied to make countries, whose businesspeople are known to be interested in ivory and other animal products from Africa, understand the negative consequences of poaching on our wildlife and the people’s development in general.
There is no doubt that increased poaching will affect the natural environment and eventually other species inhabiting particular locations, including human beings. Poaching in some parts of Africa has also been associated with the spread of diseases, both in humans and animals.
Every law-abiding citizen must be aware that poaching is illegal and criminal. Tanzania needs a united front of its people and the neighbouring countries to bring this crime to an end.