Tanzania: Two Tons of Ivory Seized in Controversial Operation
Authorities in Tanzania seized approximately 4,000 pounds of ivory in the Tanzianian city of Dar es Salaam on Saturday, according to science-focused publication Nature World News. The raid was conducted as a part of the controversial "Operation Tokomeza" or "Operation Terminate".
Authorities seized about two tons of ivory from a house belonging to Chinese nationals in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in the nation. Authorities discovered hundreds of pieces of ivory and special equipment used to transport the animal products.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki stated that the 706 elephant tusks seized represented 353 dead elephants.
The suspects denied ownership of the ivory and claimed to be operating an innocent "garlic snail" business. The alleged smugglers used snail shells and garlic to conceal the tusks, according to wildlife focused-website Wildlife News.
The suspects were named as Xu Fujie, Chen Jinzha and Huang Quin, and allegedly attempted to bribe police officers following the bust.
Operation Tokomeza has received criticism for targeting innocents and been accused of "the indiscriminate killing of people, torture and wide, sweeping arrests," reports Nature World News. The operation, which Kagasheki has defended, is an attempt to crack down on a recent surge in elephant and rhino poaching. The Tanzanian parliament suspended the campaign, which reportedly has a shoot-to-kill policy for poachers, indefinitely beginning on Friday.
"I admit that there is an ugly side in the operation, but what is happening now in arresting culprits and impounding tusks is part of the success of the operation," Kagasheki told AFP.