By Apolinari Tairo, The East African
Tanzania has revoked a hunting permit for Abu Dhabi-based Green Mile Safari, which runs safari hunting operations around Lake Natron, for alleged violation of game hunting rules. The firm is linked to the United Arab Emirates’ ruling family.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Dr Hamisi Kigwangallah announced the ban, citing violations of wildlife hunting regulations, including killing of wild animals not specified in its hunting licence. The ministry further accused the UAE firm of failing to pay the local communities concession fees amounting to Tsh329 million ($144,000) in the past two years.
The company is further accused of employing minors.
But in a statement on Thursday, Green Mile Safari denied the allegations, blaming them on a smear campaign. Director Awadh Abdallah said the company was going on with its operations in the wildlife-rich Lake Natron Game Controlled Area in northern Tanzania.
Mr Abdallah said there have been dirty campaigns to dent his company’s image. In 2014, the Tanzanian government suspended the Green Mile operations in key wildlife reserves before restoring the permit in 2016. Former natural resources and tourism minister Lazaro Nyalandu revoked the licence, accusing the company of haphazard killing of wildlife in hunting expeditions based on a video circulated on the Internet.
The video, which angered conservation groups, showed hunters, including minors, using automatic weapons from moving vehicles, capture of young animals and torture of dying ones, and using baits and lights at night to attract animals.
Mr Nyalandu said the company violated the Wildlife Conservation Act (No. 5 of 2009), which prohibits safari and amateur hunters from chasing and shooting wild animals, and killing young ones.
Two months ago, Tanzania introduced electronic auctioning of hunting blocks to promote transparency and allow the government to collect more revenues and ensure closer monitoring of hunters in game reserves.
Under the new system, hunting blocks will be under the owner or hunting company for 10 consecutive years, up from five years for the First and Second Class Blocks, while owners of the Third Class hunting blocks will operate for 15 years instead of five.
The government also waived various taxes charged on foreign hunting companies in a bid to attract more tourist hunters.
There are 26 vacant hunting blocks within game reserves, game controlled areas and open areas. Hunting blocks in Tanzania are confined to 38 wildlife reserves, controlled game reserves and open areas. Selous Game Reserve is the biggest hunting area, covering 55,000 sq km in southern Tanzania.
Tanzania has focused on attracting high-spending tourists, such as those who pay top dollar to go on hunting safaris of big game. A 21-day full hunting safari costs about $60,000, excluding flights, gun import permits and trophy fees. Trophy fees for hunting an elephant and a lion are the most expensive. Hunters are required to pay $15,000 to kill an elephant and $12,000 for a lion, all paid to the Tanzania Wildlife Authority.
Big game hunting is a thriving business in Tanzania, where hunting companies attract wealthy tourists to carry out expensive safari expeditions in game reserves. Tanzania government had earlier established 19 Wildlife Management Areas under the management of local communities for hunting and other tourist safari activities.