by Donovan McGrath
Editor’s Note: This section of Tanzanian Affairs, is very popular with readers, as it includes interesting and often moving stories that readers can relate to. It is reliant on the contributions by the TA readership, and it would be greatly appreciated if you could send in any news items you find concerning Tanzania. We would also like to hear your comments on any items published in TA.
The South China Post (Hong Kong) continues its news on the illegal ivory trade in East Africa (see TA107 and TA110 ). Many thanks to Ronald Blanche for these latest articles of interest – Editor
For man and beast
The main focus of this feature, written by Sarah Lazarus, is Richard Leakey’s involvement in wildlife conservation in Kenya, which is to be depicted in the forthcoming blockbuster movie Africa by Angelina Jolie. However, the following extract is edited to focus on Chinese interest in ivory.
[The movie] Africa is loosely based on Wildlife Wars, Leakey’s memoir of the late 1980s and early 90s, when he successfully combated ivory poaching in Kenya… “The threat to elephants is greater than it’s ever been,” says Leakey. “It’s partly because the human population in Kenya has increased and people need to make a livelihood, but particularly because the economies of Asian countries, especially China, has grown exponentially. Ivory is a part of Chinese culture and history — it’s a commodity that indicates a certain status.
If we’re serious about saving a species as important and symbolic as the elephant, then we’ve got to bite the bullet and say, ‘We don’t need ivory.’ It’s complete and utter nonsense to say, ‘We need it.’ What modern society needs is a healthy environment across the planet, and that includes elephants.” It is estimated that 33,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory every year… Last year a tipping point was reached; more elephants are now being killed than are being born. With only 350,000 left in the wild, they could be driven to extinctions within a decade. (South China Sunday Morning Post 1 March 2015)
China urged to end trade in ivory
British naturalist David Attenborough [writes Bryan Harris] has joined some 70 high-profile figures, including the comedian Ricky Gervais and the conservationist Richard Leakey, to urge China to help end the ivory trade. They have signed an open letter to President Xi Jinping, asking him to outlaw the trade and educate people about the true deadly cost of ivory. “The elephants of Africa are dying in their tens of thousands every year to provide ivory for misguided consumers in China and elsewhere. Without your help, they will continue to perish and be pushed towards extinction.” The signatories include 39 members of the British parliament… (South China Sunday Morning Post 1 March 2015 – Hong Kong)
E-commerce sites ‘advertising ivory sale’
China’s e-commerce websites are carrying thousands of adverts for illegal wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone. (South China Morning Post 4 March 2015)
The elephant in the room
Every year, thousands of elephants are killed for their tusks in Tanzania, and the trade of their ivory is sophisticated, global and hugely lucrative. In March 2013, after China’s President Xi Jinping toured Tanzania on a state visit, he and his fellow officials left the country with plenty of good will, a pile of signed cooperation deals, and some warm memories. But according to allegations in an investigation conducted by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the Chinese delegation also left with a large amount of illegal ivory… while President Xi was mingling with Tanzania’s elite, officials reportedly took advantage of the reduced checks for diplomatic visits to take bags full of ivory back to China…… [I]n some Chinese traditions, ivory as well as many other animal parts are thought to have medicinal qualities…. these beliefs are often compounded with ignorance about how the items are actually harvested. The Chinese word for ivory literally translates as “elephant teeth” and there is a widespread misperception that ivory can be taken without killing the animal… (New African January 2015 – UK)
The African Wildlife Foundation has contracted a Tanzanian-based group to train sniffer dogs and handlers for canine detection units at ports and border crossings. An aerial census in 2013 found that elephant numbers had declined to just over 13,000 from over 39,000 in 2009. Despite national efforts by Kenya and Tanzania, poaching is still rampant … (East African)
Families seek safe havens for albino children
Kizito Makoye writes: … Buhangija centre in Shinyanga, which shelters children with special needs, said the number of albino children seeking protection had almost doubled to 218 from 115 Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a full set of body parts from an albino, according to a Red Cross report.
Beatrice Lema, 16, an albino girl whose parents brought her to the Buhangija centre … from the neighbouring Simiyu region, said she feels much safer there than at home. “I don’t want to die, I want to stay safe. I have a lot of friends to play with and I believe no one will come to hurt me here,” There is growing outrage over the lack of protection for albinos —only five successful prosecutions to date … (Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org 25 February 2015)
Warship that inspired ‘African Queen’ still going at 100
Once a feared gunship defending an African lake for Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the legendary vessel — which inspired the 1951 classic “The African Queen” — has been sunk and refloated twice, renamed and repurposed as a ferry. The MV Liemba began its life in a shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, in 1913 where it was named the Graf von Götzen after German East Africa’s former governor… As it marks 100 years of service, the MV Liemba [see TA98], originally a symbol of colonial power, is now an essential lifeline for the people who live along the lakeshore…
The tale of the warship and the battle for Lake Tanganyika inspired British novelist C.S. Forester to write his 1935 novel “The African Queen”, later adapted by Hollywood in the movie of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn… The MV Liemba may not stay afloat much longer without a complete overhaul… But it may be cheaper to simply replace it with a new ferry, ending a century of fascinating history… (email@example.com 19 February 2015)
Cardiff hotel murder suspect found
A man suspected of murdering a woman in a Cardiff hotel room on New Year’s Eve has been arrested by police in Tanzania. Sammy Almahri, 44, from New York, was wanted following the discovery of 28-year-old Nadine Aburas’s body at the Future Inn, Cardiff Bay. An international search was launched and officers from South Wales Police major crime unit were sent to Tanzania to work with local police. They were able to trace Almahri’s movements over hundreds of kilometers across the country.” Extradition proceedings will now begin… (bbc.com 20 January 2015)
Illegal logging threatens tree species with extinction
Over 70% of wood harvested in forests is unaccounted for, causing huge losses of government revenue. Illegal loggers are slipping into forests at night and transferring their natural wealth to highly organised syndicates, seemingly with impunity… Indigenous tree species such as mninga and mpodo are facing local extinction due to high demand for their wood in the construction and furniture industries. (theguardian.com 14 January 2015)
TPDF operating Seabird Seeker aircraft
Writes Gareth Jennings and Lindsay Peacock. The Tanzanian People’s Defence Force (TPDF) Air Wing has received into service the Seabird SB7L-360 Seeker surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. A video of local musicians singing in front of items of Tanzanian military hardware shows a Seeker aircraft with the serial number JW-9704. This suggests that at least four such aircraft may have been received.
Prior to this, Tanzania was not believed to have such reconnaissance aircraft, the TPDF inventory being made up almost entirely of Chinese-built fighter jets, trainers and transport aircraft. (janes.com 7 January) Built by Seabird Australia and Seabird Jordan, the Seeker is a small single-engine aircraft with a crew of two, a cruising speed of 200 mph and a range of 500 miles.
Taarab music school in Zanzibar
In Zanzibar, taarab music is finding new patrons and audiences. Musician Mohammed Issa Matona has been the driving force in the music’s continued popularity… Taarab was born from a rich mosaic of Indian Ocean influences… In 2002, the desire to preserve this music led Matona and violinist Hildegard Kiel to create the Dhow Countries Music Academy, Zanzibar’s first music school… In just over a decade, more than a thousand students have passed through the school’s doors… (Africa Report April 2015)
Despite their relative prosperity, until 2013 the Nosim Noah family had no electricity. “We waited 10 years for them to turn the power on – 10 years and nothing,” says Noah. Then, one afternoon, the Noahs had an unexpected knock on the door. An agent from a new electrical company M-POWER said that, for a sign-up fee of only $6 he could install a fully functioning solar system in their house – enough to power several LED lights and a radio. The payoff was immediate. While Noah’s wife used to spend $18 a month on kerosene, she now pays a monthly average of $11 for her solar lighting, and she no longer has to go into town to charge her cellphone…
The idea is not to electrify every appliance in a household. Instead, it is to install a small solar panel not much bigger than an iPad to power a few lights, a cellphone charger, and other basic necessities that can still significantly alter people’s lives. Going smaller better fits the budgets of the rural poor. People use the money they normally would spend on kerosene to finance their solar systems, allowing them to pay in small, affordable instalments and not rely on government help. (Christian Science Monitor Weekly 26 January – photo from article)