Tanzania seized ivory tusks equivalent to killing at least 117 elephants, its tourism minister said, part of a drive to stamp out organised criminal networks involved in years of industrial-scale poaching.
The elephant population in Tanzania shrank from 110 000 in 2009 to 43 000 in 2014, according to a 2015 census, with conservation groups blaming rampant poaching. Government says numbers have started recovering.
Demand for ivory from Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where it is turned into jewels and ornaments, drives the surge in poaching across Africa.
Hamisi Kigwangalla, minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, said on Twitter the ivory was recovered after authorities arrested suspected “hardcore” poacher Hassan Shaban Likwema, also known by the alias Hassan Nyoni.
“The arrest of Nyoni brought us to a stage where we can say we have in custody all the hardcore poachers on our wanted list, except a few who left the country,” Kigwangalla said.
“Nyoni and his accomplices’ consignment is worth four billion shillings ($1.74 million) and involved the killing of 117 elephants going back to 2015 and earlier,” he said.
Pictures Kigwangalla posted on Twitter showed him inspecting a row of 75 tusks and 338 pieces of ivory.
Government said its anti-poaching efforts saw a recovery in elephant numbers, which rose to over 60 000.