THE government has refuted claims by the British newspaper, The Daily Mail on Sunday, accusing President Jakaya Kikwete of turning a blind eye to slaughtering of elephants in the country, saying the current regime has done a historic job in preventing the killing of jumbos.
A statement issued by the Directorate of Presidential Communications, said that the one sided and incomplete article that disregarded one of the cardinal principles of journalism, which compels responsible journalists to balance their stories, deliberately distorted the truth about the matter.
The article carried the headline; “Tanzania slaughters over 11,000 elephants a year for the bloody trade in tusks and its President turns a blind eye.”
The statement warned that President Kikwete and his government did not take the report and the allegations lightly, urging the editor of the paper in question to be courageous and honest enough to rectify the article. “It is malicious, preposterous and contemptible.
Contrary to what is being claimed in this story, there are heightened efforts and major achievements being made by President Kikwete’s administration in wildlife conservation and anti poaching drive,” reads the statement in part.
It added, “To blame his government and claim that it is presiding over slaughtering of elephants is typical case of blaming the victim and ignoring the serious efforts being made by his government.”
The statement further noted that the government deserves compliments and words of encouragement to stay the course and intensify the fight.
It, however, admit that the problem of poaching is real and big and that the government has noticed increased poaching activities since 2009.
“But, these heightened illegal activities have been responded to commensurately through many bold and innovative initiatives and actions by President Kikwete’s administration,” the statement emphasised.
The statement gave facts on the fight against poaching saying that at independence, Tanzania had an estimated elephant population of about 350,000 but during the first wave of elephant poaching in the 1970 and 1980s by 1989 Tanzania had 55,000 elephants left.
It went on to cite various operations launched since then which includes Uhai, Kipepeo and the most recent, famously known as Tokomeza. “In 2012, the government established a Joint Inter-Institutional Task Force…… as a result of this operation, elephant killings were cut down from six per month to just one in three months,” reads the statement.
It added that the “Operation Tokomeza” which was temporarily suspended because of need to investigate reports and claims of human rights abuses would resume soon.
“A lot was achieved during the time of the Operation (Tokomeza), for example; 962 suspected poachers were arrested, 202 pieces of ivory were impounded, 779 guns and 2, 095 rounds of ammunition of various calibres were confiscated and 4, 949 herds of cattle found grazing inside protected areas were removed…,” reads another part.
It clarified that the government has created capacity in the protection of wild animals, tightened security leading to seizures of ivories and that it was more than willing to put an end to the killing of elephants.