Tanzania’s Vanishing Biodiversity
By Tanzania Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Hon. Lazaro S. Nyalandu
I share with you the current priorities of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania as we set out to scale up our efforts to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade, particularly illicit ivory trafficking. We invite you today to collaborate with us in discussing the priorities as we develop a strategy to combat poaching and address illegal wildlife trafficking—particularly of our threatened elephant populations.
Scientific evidence shows that poaching and illegal ivory trafficking has caused a significant decline in elephant populations in Tanzania. Survival of the species is now at risk, endangering a priceless asset to humanity, the integrity of Tanzania’s biodiversity and our national economy. It is clear to us all that more needs to be done and the time to act is now.
The Tanzanian Government is, therefore, setting out to address three interrelated challenges and opportunities: (1) Biodiversity conservation; (2) Economic development; and (3) National security.
Biodiversity: Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) has estimated that elephants may become extinct within seven years, if the current trend of decline continues. In addition, since the elephant is a keystone species of the African savannah ecosystem, effects on these habitats and all other savannah species are expected to be devastating as the natural habitat management effect of elephants is no longer present.
Economic development: Elephants and rhinos are iconic mammals of Africa and important tourist attractions. Their absence would severely impact Tanzania’s tourism sector. Without these charismatic mega-fauna the draw for tourists will be diminished. This would not only damage the national economy but would also directly impact the development of rural communities, leading to increasing poverty and preventing Tanzania’s achievement of national priorities such as its Vision 2025 and the Millennium Development Goals as well as post 2015 development priorities.
Illegal wildlife trade increases poverty since the true value of wildlife products is taken away from local communities and, most often, out of the country. In effect, the illegal wildlife trade is privatizing for illicit gain from a public good. Illegal wildlife trade is a redirection of wildlife-based benefits from thousands of rural households dependent on natural resources towards a few powerful criminals.
National Security: Poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking put national security at risk. Unfortunately, the middlemen involved in the trafficking of wildlife products are becoming more skilled at disguising their goods and avoiding arrests at countries’ exit and entry points. There is enormous urgency to combat the national security aspect of the ivory trade and slaughter of elephants at both national and international levels. The Tanzanian Government recognizes the need for a mix of short-term actions and long-term solutions to end poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife. A draft strategy has three interrelated components – each detailing several strategic measures to address these issues.
The three priority components are:
• Providing national capacity for intelligence-led, highly coordinated law enforcement. This will include creation of a dedicated wildlife crime unit, better controls at ports and supporting the much needed infrastructure development in protected areas;
• Improving rural livelihoods through enhanced community-based management of natural resources, including on-going support to our WMA programme;
• Awareness raising and demand reduction in Tanzania and in collaboration with supply, transit and destination countries to help change attitudes towards wildlife crime and build international support to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
• Boost and align our intelligence capabilities in the wildlife sector and better link with our national systems and response mechanisms, including the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Unit. To that end our strategy includes the creation of a Wildlife Crime Unit housed in my Ministry but effectively linked to all other arms of government.
• National Wildlife Crime Unit overseen by a proposed Ministerial Committee on Wildlife Security that will allow a linkage to other related Ministries, in order to unite the wildlife and security sectors in addressing wildlife trafficking. The Unit will be composed of expert members from the Wildlife Division, TANAPA and potentially other partners under this Ministry. The Unit will be supported by technical experts from the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Unit, including public prosecutions, police and customs, immigration and intelligence agencies. It will contain a separate intelligence section for the management of human and signals intelligence. Advanced training will need to be provided to Unit members.
This will be an independent specialist unit and, where necessary, will call upon and liaise with the Wildlife Division and TANAPA’s and NCAA’s anti-poaching units as well as the CITES’s ivory and rhino task force, and upon INTERPOL representatives, amongst others.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Home Affairs will allow for the unit to access specialist support from the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Unit and, therefore, benefit from the skills, intelligence and law enforcement expertise of the police, CID, intelligence, customs, immigration departments and military forces whenever necessary. The Unit will be based within the Ministry. It will manage seven ecosystem-level Tasking and Coordination Groups in the following ecosystem hotspots: Serengeti, Tarangire, Moyowosi, Ruaha, Rungwa, Katavi and Selous. Each Tasking and Coordination Group will be made up of a specialist operational team and will be designed to grow and contract according to the scale of a particular task, calling on resources from other groups and the wildlife crime unit as required.
• Strengthen law enforcement.
To significantly strengthen technical capacities to combat poaching on the ground for our rangers, police, customs and immigration officials. Effective law enforcement will require stronger efforts to tackle poaching in protected areas as well as unprotected areas. The Government will scale up capacities to intercept criminals in transit, on major highways and at export points along highways as well as at airports and seaports. These efforts will require manpower, training, technology, better monitoring intelligence, transport and other tools.
At protected areas level efforts will focus on increased use of technology and ranger training. Park and Reserve Management and rangers and wardens in five parks and five reserves will be resourced for anti-poaching activities through utilization of new technical equipment such as thermal imagery night vision equipment, remote recording devices, vehicle-repeaters and GPS devices for greater effectiveness per unit effort. With the use of technology maximized, human labour will be minimized. In addition, rangers and wardens will be better supported through equipment. Bulletproof vests are also needed.
• Security plans will be formulated for each protected area, based on those recently formulated for Serengeti and Selous; rangers and wardens will be prepared for their implementation through intensive training in criminal tracking, smuggling techniques, and the gathering, handling and transfer of evidence. Linkages will be formed with the Wildlife Crime Unit for efficient transfer of data to intelligence leaders.
• Container Control Programme, which will vastly increase capacity for efficient and thorough monitoring of export containers at air/sea ports.
A comprehensive training program will be conducted for customs staff, including in aspects of risk analysis, cargo inspection, information exchange and post-seizure investigations. Port control units will be established at container terminals, with liaison points with the Wildlife Crime Unit and our existing National and Transnational Serious Crimes Unit. Each unit will be equipped to target high-risk containers, increasing the efficiency of searches. In addition, customs departments should be equipped with and trained in the use of high-tech scanning equipment and trained sniffer dogs and will be given additional staff members in order to further increase the rate of detection of smuggled goods. Selected staff can act as clandestine monitors, with recording devices, to support intelligence gathering. Training will also be given on the application of roadblocks along major highways and known smuggling routes.
In addition, an independent communications system needs to be emplaced for coordination between Customs and Wildlife Division via the Wildlife Crime Unit in order to enable targeted interceptions of identified suspects.
• Deterrence through higher convictions success rate in poaching and trafficking crimes.
Knowledge of wildlife laws, offenses and penalties is low in the justice sector, which weakens cases and reduces the likelihood of suitable penalties. In addition, if a case results in a successful conviction, the low penalties given for wildlife crimes does little to deter a poacher or trafficker who may gain an income from ivory trade many times the value of the penalty. Therefore, intensive training will be provided to state attorneys and district magistrates, depending on the findings of a national assessment, on the following: wildlife laws, their relevance to national security and economy, and, therefore, significance of wildlife crimes. Each stage of the prosecution process will be strengthened: how to prepare for trial, minimum requirements for a file in terms of quality of evidence, presentation and handling of evidence exhibits, with standard operating procedure established for case management and rapid referral through departments. Judiciary toolkits, checklists and guidelines will be introduced and implemented for easy referral during operations.
Corruption within the judiciary will also be addressed, through sensitization of magistrates for honest and fair judgments—including passing on the understanding that killing wildlife is a serious crime; employment of independent case monitors and court observers, case analysis and publication; the utilization of electronic transcription system in courts so that records cannot be changed. Available anti-corruption tools will be utilized as necessary.
• These include addressing poverty and sustainable livelihoods at the local level in the vicinity of protected areas. Prosperity, alternatives to illegal activities and development will be an important part of the long-term solutions. This will likely include more effective collaboration between Government, local communities, NGOs and the private sector – especially the tourism sector. On-going support to wildlife management areas must be a crucial part of those long-terms solution—people must benefit from wildlife, if it is to survive.
• Improved international cooperation is also crucial. This includes wildlife management and anti-poaching, anti-trafficking cooperation with our neighbours, expanded cooperation with INTERPOL, and deeper diplomatic cooperation with ivory and rhino horn consumer states. Tanzania and China have already begun to demonstrate this in our bilateral relationships but, there is more to be done yet. We are also aware that much needs to be done in awareness raising at home and abroad about the threats to the nation and to our global heritage from poaching and ivory trafficking, including better awareness of the nature and costs of ivory sources in consumer countries. Our draft strategy, therefore, has a strong awareness raising and demand reduction component. Details of our planned approaches in both the short- and long-term are also spelled out in the draft strategy, which we intend to circulate for your input and feedback in the near future.
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