Tanzania halts anti-poaching drive after abuse claims

Elephants and calves in the Serengeti national reserve in northern Tanzania on October 25, 2010
Elephants and calves in the Serengeti national reserve in northern Tanzania on October 25, 2010

Tanzania has suspended a controversial anti-poaching operation following reports of rampant human rights abuses including the seizure of property, torture and killing of suspects, the speaker of parliament said Saturday.

Police and wildlife officers have cracked down on suspected amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation, operating under what was reported to be a shoot-to-kill policy and making sweeping arrests.

The campaign, launched two months ago, was dubbed "Operation Tokomeza", or "Operation Terminate".

"It is has been necessary for government to suspend the operation indefinitely," Speaker of Parliament Anne Makinda told AFP Saturday, adding that a probe into the conduct of the campaign would be launched next week.

Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki told parliament Friday the operation would be called off, adding that any member of the security forces found to be involved in acts of torture, theft of property would be punished.

Shortly after the campaign's launch Kagasheki was widely quoted in Tanzanian media as saying that "rangers are allowed to shoot to kill poachers."

On Friday, MP John Shibuda said while poachers have badly hit Tanzania's elephant population, killing the hunters was unacceptable.

"Human life is more valuable than jumbos," he told .

Other lawmakers listed alleged abuses including killings during the campaign.

Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years. Besides targeting rhinos, whole herds of elephants have been massacred for their ivory.

Tourism is a key foreign currency earner for Tanzania, especially wildlife safaris to its world famous parks that include the Serengeti and Ngorongoro carter.

The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.

Asian consumers falsely believe the horns, which have the same composition as fingernails, have powerful healing properties.


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Nov 02, 2013
"Human life is more valuable than Jumbos"

By whose definition? Nature? What an idiot.

I don't see how these people are valuable. At the end of the day, a criminal is just a criminal. And there's enough of them already.

Nov 03, 2013
The problem is that they try and sugar coat this, by saying that the people are too poor, desperate and starving, when all they do is greedily shoot the elephants, rhinos (and they shoot thousands of them) and then just leave them there to bleed to death. For hungry people, why then do they only take the horns and tusks and leave the rest of the animal to rot? There's a difference between trying to survive (by getting a job), and trying to get rich, by exploiting the black market.

Nov 03, 2013
their very well may be some misconduct occurring but why throw the baby out with the bathwater? the future of elephants and rhinos over there is quite bleak. Also, I don't have a problem with a shoot to kill on poachers, they are not going to stop otherwise.

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