POACHING IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM in Africa, where 35,000 elephants were killed last year, and where species of rhinos and gorillas are on the brink of extinction. The poaching is mostly fueled by a global market for basically useless luxury products: for example, in Vietnam, rhino horns are believed to work as hangover cures and aphrodisiacs (they don’t). Local governments frequently lack the stability or the funds required to protect their animals, and often, poachers are as violent towards the people protecting the animals as they are towards the animals themselves. The fight against global poaching is not a story that often has a happy ending.
Today is an exception. Because a Tanzanian court just charged two Chinese nationals to 30 years in prison, or to pay a fee of $108.7 billion Tanzanian shillings (the equivalent of about $49.7 million USD) for the killing of 226 elephants.
The two men are believed to be ringleaders and financiers of a huge poaching operation in the country (they are responsible, it is believed, for about a quarter of all of the elephants killed in the country between the years of 2010 and 2013), and they are expected to appeal the ruling.
This is all part of a stepping up in Tanzania against corruption and poaching. The country’s new president, John Magufuli, has a reputation as someone who fights hard against corruption, which naturally feeds into all corners of daily life in the country, but which also has a serious negative effect on anti-poaching efforts. The last anti-poaching effort in Tanzania was an unmitigated disaster. The program, called Operation Tokomeza Ujangili was beset by allegations of civilian abuse, torture, extortion, and murder.
The new effort is trying to be less hyper-militarized, and more geared towards intelligence gathering and investigation. This, coupled with Magufuli’s crackdown on corruption, could mean that we see more of these poaching cartel bigwigs getting slammed with huge, expensive sentences, which will hopefully save the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of the country’s priceless elephants.
In the meantime, on top of the poaching conviction, the two poachers were also found guilty of attempting to bribe officers from the country’s Wildlife department, which will carry a five-year jail sentence and a 1 million Tanzanian shilling fine (about $457 USD). When the judge read the ruling, one of the defendants nearly collapsed from shock. Hopefully other poachers in Tanzania get the message.
h/t: The Citizen