Tanzania gets tough with poachers

Tanzanian president tells security forces to pursue wildlife poachers.

Tanzanian president John Magufuli has ordered the security forces to tackle the well-armed criminal networks behind the illlicit trade in elephant poaching, saying that “no one should be spared, regardless of position, age, religion or popularity.”

Magufuli issued the order as part of a renewed crackdown on poaching, following a meeting with Tanzania's National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU).

The president called on the NTSCIU to step up its efforts to protect elephants in the east African nation which relies heavily on revenue from safari tourism.

Since taking office one year ago Magufuli has waged war on poachers whose lucrative trade has resulted in a dramatic decline in Tanzania's elephant population and damaged the country's international reputation.

The most recent wildlife census reveals that Tanzania's elephant population declined by 60 per cent in five years, from 110,000 in 2009 to around 43,500 in 2014. The country’s rhino population faces an even bleaker future, with official 2014 figures suggesting that Tanzania has only 123 rhinos remaining, down from more than 65,000 in 1970.

In recent years poaching has increased across sub-Saharan Africa, with ivory and rhino horns being smuggled to Asia for use as ornaments and in traditional medicines. Wildlife crime is now estimated to be worth $20 billion a year, some of which is known to be financing terrorist activity and political instability in Africa.