A number of conservation issues were raised this week at a meeting of the Tanzanian National Assembly. Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, commented on the seizure of $3.4 million worth of illegal ivory in Hong Kong last week, believed to have originated in Tanzania. He stated that his government is investigating those allegations, and that it plans to use DNA tests to determine the origin of the tusks. Authorities are also working to determine the identities of customs officials on duty at the port of Dar Es Salaam at the time the shipment was cleared for departure. Kagasheki stated that the information collected thus far suggests that the shipment passed through Tanzania on transit from an unknown origin, saying, “We are working closely with our ambassador in China and the Ministry of Home Affairs in carrying out investigations that will help in getting the truth of the matter.”
During the same meeting, Pauline Gekul (Special Seats-Chadema), raised concerns about another threat facing Tanzania’s national parks. She alleged that illegal mining was occurring within park boundaries, and that Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) officials were complicit in those activities. Kagasheki responded with assurances that those allegations were also under investigation.
In more positive news from the meeting, the Assembly endorsed the government’s request to expand the boundaries of Gombe National Park by 22 square kilometers, and the House voted to approve the government’s request to upgrade Sanane Island to a national park, raising the number of national parks in Tanzania to 16.