The government waits an official report from Kenya before instituting legal actions against two Tanzanians, who were arrested inside a national park in the neighbouring country at the weekend over illegal possession of ivory tusks weighing 42 kilograms.
Natural Resources and Tourism minister Ezekiel Maige said in a telephone interview yesterday that the government cannot take any other action at the moment until it gets details it has inquired from Kenya regarding the arrests.
“It is not easy for us to act. We need more details on how the suspects were arrested and other facts necessary for taking legal measures,” said Maige, who granted the interview while on official trip of Iringa.
He explained that according to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) anti-poaching protocol, member states, including Tanzania and Kenya, are obliged to penalise poachers in accordance with the regional agreement.
Maige noted that the block’s anti-poaching regulations provide that before taking any action against poachers found with precious resources, member states need to share information about that particular incident.
“SADC partner states must exchange notes on such crimes…this is done to establish important facts, including the origin of the trophies, and so on. We also communicate on appropriate actions to be taken against the culprits,” said the minister.
The same procedure was applicable in the Kenya case, he said. He noted that the government sought from the Kenyan government the basic information on the crime, including where the ivory tusks were stolen.
After these facts, he said, the suspects will be taken back to Tanzania for legal actions.
“I am not aware about the incident, I have just heard it from you, but our actions will depend on information we will get from our anti-poaching office based in Nairobi…right now I can not say anything,” he said.
On Saturday, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) senior warden at Amboseli National Park George Osuri said the suspects were arrested in Murtot area of Amboseli near the Kenya-Tanzania border, with two raw ivory tusks.
“The suspects, who are believed to be members of a cartel that has been dealing with illegal trafficking of ivory along the Kenya/Tanzania border, were on a motorbike used to transport the tusks,” Osuri said on Sunday.
He said the suspects have been detained at the local police station awaiting to appear in court on Monday. It is believed they intended to sell their wares to Kenyan dealers.
The latest development came hours after the authorities arrested three suspected poachers in northern Kenya and found them with 80 pieces of elephant ivory worth 47 million shillings (USD32,000).
The arrested are suspected to belong to a gang of poachers operating in the northern tour circuit which covers Mt Kenya forest, Isiolo, Meru and Laikipia districts.
In November last year, wildlife authorities killed three suspected poachers, four firearms recovered and five elephants killed in two separate incidents in Isiolo and Tsavo.
Kenya opposes the lifting of a 9-year ban against ivory sales agreed in 2007 under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species.
KWS has listed elephants, lions, wild dogs, leopards, cheetah, hyenas, Sitatunga, Tana crested mangabey, and Tana red colobus monkeys as some of the most endangered wildlife species in Kenya.
The number of elephants has reduced from a high of 160,000 in 1970s to the current 30,000. KWS said between the 1970s and 1980s Kenya lost over 80 per cent of her elephants, mainly due to intensive poaching for ivory.
Also affected are the Black Rhinos whose number declined from 20,000 in 1970s to the current 577. The population of Grey Zebra declined from 13,500 in the late 1970s to just over 2,000 by 2007.