By The Maritime Executive
57 representatives of key port stakeholder groups have agreed on a collective way forward to tackle wildlife trafficking through Tanzania’s sea ports. Specific actions discussed include improvement of risk profiling systems as well as mechanisms to strengthen inter-agency and public-private sector collaboration, investigative capacity and information exchange.
The measures were discussed during a Port Stakeholders Workshop hosted by the TRAFFIC, UNDP and UNODC, in partnership with the Wildlife Division of Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Tanzania Ports Authority and the Tanzania Revenue Authority.
Each year, Tanzania attracts global tourists to view the seasonal migration of wild animals across the Serengeti grasslands, home to over 20 migratory species, including the African elephant. Tanzania is also a major gateway to the interior of East Africa. Dar es Salaam is one of the key African port cities on China’s “Ocean Silk Road,” and about 95 percent of Tanzania’s international trade is handled by the Port of Dar es Salaam.
As a biodiversity hotspot with reliable and efficient international transport chains, Tanzania’s seaports are highly vulnerable to illegal wildlife trade. In recent years, Tanzanian ports have been on the front lines of large-scale illegal wildlife seizures, intercepting shipments of ivory, leopard skins and shark fins, among other commonly-traded wildlife products. Over 10,000 unique pieces of ivory, cumulatively weighing more than 20.5 tonnes, were seized at Tanzanian seaports between 2009 and 2018.
Robert Mande, Assistant Director of Anti-Poaching, Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said wildlife trafficking is a crime that can only be effectively fought through inter-agency collaboration. “Collaboration becomes even more critical when considering the existing network of illegal wildlife dealers worldwide. It is only through collaboration in sharing of intelligence, exchange of operational techniques, sharing of modus operandi used by poachers and traffickers, etc. that we can truly build a united front against them.”
It is hoped that the strategy agreed during the workshop will serve as a template for other Tanzanian and African ports to follow.
Last year, two advocacy workshops were held raising awareness on wildlife trafficking amongst Chinese nationals living and working in Tanzania. More than 180 local Chinese nationals from State-owned enterprises, private businesses and residential communities attended.
As Chinese investment in Africa has expanded in recent years, ivory smuggling cases involving Chinese nationals have happened occasionally. In February this year, a Tanzanian Court sentenced on Chinese businesswoman Yang Feng Glan, nicknamed “Ivory Queen,” to 15 years in prison for running a large-scale smuggling operation which delivered ivory from the tusks of more than 350 elephants, worth $6.4 million, to Asia. Such cases have tarnished China’s international reputation, particularly with a rising consciousness that illegal wildlife trade poses a serious threat to the survival of Africa’s wild elephants.
Wildlife resources are economically important and critical natural heritage in Tanzania. The country dedicates over 25 percent of its land surface to wildlife protected area networks (National Parks, Conservation Areas, Game Reserves, and Game Controlled Areas). Despite various efforts to conserve wildlife, iconic species such as the African elephant and rhinoceros are being poached to near extinction. Tanzania has previously been called “the epicenter of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis” after a government census revealed loss of 60 percent of its elephants between 2009-2014.