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Tanzania Official Suggests Shooting Poachers on the Spot

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Oct 07, 2013 04:45 PM EDT
Polished elephant ivory seized in Hong Kong
As the US government completes the pulverization of the entirety of its seized ivory stockpiles Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a smashing of another kind. He has offered a $1 million reward to help dismantle a Laos-based poaching network known as Xaysavang. The photo shows a recent ivory seizure in Hong Kong. (Photo : YouTube Screenshot / Al Jazeera English )

As Tanzania prepares to finalize a bill aimed at strengthening its weak penalties against wildlife crime, one official is calling for an even more drastic measure: kill the criminals on the spot.

Khamis Kagasheki, Tanzania's Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, told the Tanzania Daily News that the current law is too lenient and has loopholes that can be taken advantage of.

"Poachers must be harshly punished because they are merciless people who wantonly kill our wildlife and sometimes game wardens," he said.

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Though the tactic is admittedly extreme, Kagasheki suggested that poachers, if caught, should be shot on the spot, a method he said could curtail the slaughter of protected wildlife.

His suggestion, while savage, is not baseless. Tanzania sees as many as 25,000 of its elephants killed every year. The nation was chosen by US President Barack Obama as the site to announce a $10 million anti-poaching initiative in July. Kagasheki said that something between 30 and 70 elephants are killed every day in Tanzania and that soon a study to get a more accurate figure will be underway.

Kagasheki said that "human rights activists will make an uproar" over his claim, stating that the poachers have the right to a fair trial. "But let's face it, poachers not only kill wildlife but also usually never hesitate to shoot dead any innocent person standing in their way," Kagasheki said.

Trials for poachers can take a long time and poachers are often connected to wide criminal networks with the resources to pay for legal fees and fines associated with poaching, Kagasheki suggested, adding that "the only way to solve this problem is to execute the killers on the spot."

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