Dar es Salaam, Feb 16 IANS | 10 months ago

Police in Tanzania's southern region of Mtwara said Saturday that they have seized 58 pieces of ivory valued at USD 440,000 and arrested three people in connection with the haul.

The seizure of the ivory comes three days after President Jakaya Kikwete appealed to the international community to assist his country in stopping ivory and rhino horn trade in the world in order to protect the wild animals from extinction, Xinhua reported.

"If the ban is effected, elephants and rhinos will be safe. There will be no demand for ivory and horns and thus no enticement to kill an elephant or rhino," Kikwete said in his address at the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade Thursday.

He cited a ban on ivory trade in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which played a crucial role in stopping the trade.

Acting Mtwara regional police commander Maisha Maganga told a press conference Saturday that the 58 pieces of ivory were being ferried from Nanyumbu district in Mtwara region to the country's commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

He said the ivory was intercepted Friday after members of the public had tipped off police on the contraband.

"Our final count has revealed that 29 elephants were killed by the poachers to get the 58 pieces of ivory," said Maganga, adding that the suspects cut-off the floor of a Landcruiser and made an artificial fuel tank to stock the ivory.

Last Sunday, Britain's Sunday Mail newspaper published an article accusing President Kikwete of presiding over the slaughter of elephants that is unprecedented in his country's history.

However, authorities in Tanzania hastily refuted the article and demanded that the newspaper "rectify these obvious gaps in your article".

At independence in 1961, the population of elephants in Tanzania stood at 350,000. But due to poaching in the country's national parks and game reserves in the 1970's and 1980's, the number had dropped to 55,000 by the year 1987.

Statistics indicate that at present about 30 elephants are being slaughtered daily in the country's national parks and game reserves.

(Posted on 16-02-2014)

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