Tanzanian Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Saturday presided over the inauguration of the paramilitary group tasked with combating poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife organs and products.
The squad has 313 female and male personnel and will operate under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
“It is my expectation that the establishment of the group will completely combat wildlife poaching in the country,” the VP said in her address.
“I urge communities living in the neighbourhoods of national parks and game reserves to cooperate with relevant government authorities in combating the illegal acts.”
The ceremony, which was broadcast live by a local TV channel, took place at Fort Ikoma, in Serengeti District, Mara Region.
Ms Hassan further expressed optimism that the anti-poaching war will boost the tourism sector.
The move, she said, will help increase the number of wildlife, which attract tourists.
At the ceremony, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Hamisi Kigwangalla revealed that the guards who form the paramilitary force were from organisations including the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa) and the Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa).
“The guards have been recruited by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF),” said Mr Kigwangalla.
Nape Nnauye, chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism, said, “On behalf of parliament, I commend the ministry for coming up with this initiative to combat wildlife poaching.”
He added, “Parliament is determined to cooperate with the ministry to make sure the proposed countrywide anti-poaching operations become successful.”
The launch was preceded by a military parade and followed by entertainment by members of the newly inaugurated paramilitary force.
Among those who attended were former and current government officials including Chief of Defence Forces General Venance Mabeyo and Mara Regional Commissioner Adam Malima.
The government has dedicated over 25 percent of the country’s land to protected areas for wildlife – national parks, conservation areas, game reserves, and game controlled areas.
There are 16 national parks that together cover more than 42,000 km2. Game reserves are 17 in number.
Despite efforts to conserve wildlife, iconic species such as the African elephant and rhinoceros have been poached to near extinction, causing systemic and tangible devastation to global biodiversity resources.
Tanzania was termed “the epicentre of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis” after a government census revealed loss of 60 percent of its elephants between 2009 and 2014.
It was on this ground that the government established the National Strategy to Combat Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade (NSCPIWT), the goal being to strengthen legislation and capacity to tackle poaching and wildlife trafficking at the national level.