Tanzania hunting safari outfitters in dilemma over tourism minister’s remarks

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Tourist hunting executives in Tanzania are looking for fresh talks with the government over the recent remarks by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism who accused their companies of the wanton killing of wildlife.

The minister in charge of conservation and protection of wildlife and nature, Dr. Hamis Kigwangala, mentioned 4 prominent hunting safari companies operating in Tanzania which he said were running undercover plans to hunt animals without permits.

But the companies – seen to have a big influence over Tanzania’s political landscape – have so far refuted the minister’s remarks, saying they were good corporate business citizens in Tanzania, contributing about US$30 million per year from hunting.

Undercover reports by several media outlets in Tanzania have revealed big secrecy and syndicates within the hunting safari business compared to photographic safaris which attract more tourists.

Hunting safari operators are known to kill animals not specified in their hunting permits, while some incidents have involved safari hunters brutally shooting wild animals with several gun shots.

Further reports have connected officials from wildlife units to colluding with hunters to chase wild animals using vehicles with full lights, contrary to hunting regulations.

Less prominent than photographic safaris, tourist safari hunting has been connected with poaching activities which are syndicated by injecting big sums of money to government officials in charge of hunting operations.

Stakeholders in wildlife conservation are looking to see that the government of Tanzania does impose a total ban on tourist hunting as a permanent solution to save the African wildlife.

Leading environmental protection campaigner and a businessman in Tanzania, Mr. Reginald Mengi, said a few years back, wildlife poaching – mostly the African elephant – would cease when the government of Tanzania imposes a total ban on trophy hunting.

He said a total ban on tourist hunting for elephant products would help to minimize poaching of the African jumbos.

Mr. Mengi said during a past conservation conference that tourist hunting for elephant trophies in Tanzania has been corrupted by a section of hunting companies through the killing of jumbos in open areas outside protected wildlife parks.

Poaching has escalated at an alarming rate in Africa during the past 20 years, threatening the disappearance of the African jumbos.

Tanzania’s elephant population had declined from 109,000 in 2009 to the current estimate of less than 70,000 elephants in recent years.

In another development, the Natural Resources Minister has accused Tanzanian police of “dilly-dallying” and failing to arrest key suspects in last year’s killing of a prominent South African wildlife conservationist, Wayne Lotter.

He said that police had the information “but had failed to take action” against those who planned the killing of Mr. Lotter.

Lotter, who developed techniques to catch elephant poachers and ivory smugglers, was shot and killed in Dar es Salaam in mid-August of last year.

The prominent South African-born wildlife conservationist working in Tanzania, was murdered in Tanzania on his way from Julius Nyerere International Airport to his hotel in Dar es Salaam.

Aged 51, Wayne Lotter was shot when his taxi was stopped by another vehicle where 2 men, one armed with a gun, opened his car door and shot him.

Before his untimely death, Wayne Lotter had received numerous death threats while battling international ivory-trafficking networks in Tanzania where more than 66,000 elephants have been killed during the past 10 years.

Wayne was a director and co-founder of the Protected Area Management System (PAMS) Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that provides conservation and anti-poaching support to communities and governments across Africa.

Since starting the organization in Tanzania way back in 2009, Wayne had received numerous death threats.

Unconfirmed reports said Mr. Wayne fell victim of potential safari hunters who opposed his commitment to support the government of Tanzania on the conservation of wildlife.

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