Tanzania sees 'sharp rise' in killing of elephants

An elephant in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, December 2013 Elephants are under threat across Africa, campaigners say

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The killing of elephants has increased sharply in Tanzania since the government suspended its anti-poaching operation after a month, Deputy Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu has said.

Sixty elephants were "butchered" in November and December, compared with only two in October, Mr Nyalandu added.

The security forces adopted a shoot-to-kill policy against poachers when the operation was in force in October.

The government suspended it after an inquiry reported human rights abuses.

'Huge demand'

"The anti-poaching operation had good intentions, but the reported murders, rapes and brutality are totally unacceptable," Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying earlier this month.

Start Quote

Asian countries are reportedly the main consumers of elephant tusks and by-products”

End Quote Lazaro Nyalandu Deputy minister

The inquiry, carried out by MPs, found that 13 civilians were killed and more than 1,000 people arrested during the month-long crackdown, codenamed "Operation Terminate".

The findings led to President Jakaya Kikwete sacking Defence Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha, Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi, Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Khamis Kagasheki and Livestock Development Minister David Mathayo.

Mr Nyalandu said that, with the operation suspended, the government would appeal to foreign donors to help strengthen Tanzania's wildlife department and ranger service.

"Those to be approached include the European Union and Asian countries. Asian countries are reportedly the main consumers of elephant tusks and by-products," he said.

There is huge demand for elephant tusks in many Asian countries, where they are used to make ornaments.

In October, Ivorian football star Yaya Toure joined a UN campaign against poaching, warning the slaughter of elephants threatened their existence in Africa.

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