Tanzania jails Chinese poachers for 20 years

Tanzanian president gets tough with poachers.

Tanzania sentenced four Chinese men to 20 years in jail each, on 18 December, after they were convicted of smuggling rhino horns. In addition the four were each fined 9 billion Tanzanian shillings ($4.23 million) – 10 times the blackmarket value of the rhino horns found in their possession.

The severity of the court's sentence reflects an increasing crackdown on the illicit poaching industry in Tanzania, and east Africa in general, a region which relies heavily on revenues generated from safari tourism.

Tanzania’s newly-elected president John Magufuli has repeatedly pledged to stamp out poachers and corrupt officials as part of wider efforts to combat endemic corruption in the east African nation.

Since taking office on 5 November 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.

In late November Germany donated two aeroplanes to the Tanzanian government to help in the fight against poaching protected wild animals.

The latest 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.

China is the main consumer of ivory and Vietnam of rhino horn, and 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.