Tanzania on Sunday reversed its decision to lift a controversial ban on wildlife exports, a day after the move triggered an uproar in the east African nation. The ban imposed in 2016, was in place to safeguard the country’s protected animals and birds who were illegally being shipped abroad.
On Saturday however, wildlife authorities announced they would lift the ban for an initial six months from June 6 to December 5 for traders to “clear stocks of animals” that they were unable to sell under the ban. But in a swift U-turn, Tourism Minister Pindi Chana reinstated the ban to allow for further consultations.
“There was an announcement which permitted the export of wildlife but as a responsible minister, I immediately stop this,” she said.
“There will be no exporting of live animals as we consult further and until the government decides otherwise.”
The decision to lift the ban provoked an online backlash, with many Tanzanians calling for its review.
“They say the Maasai are destructive, hence their forced eviction from Ngorongoro! If you ask me: They want the Maasai out of conservation areas so they can capture/export as they please – no prying eyes,” one user said on Twitter.
The indigenous Maasai community lives in Ngorongoro reserve in northern Tanzania but face eviction as officials say their growing population is a threat to wildlife in the area.
Conservation group WWF cautioned on Saturday that easing the ban should not undo gains made in protecting wildlife, amid fears it could trigger poaching which has declined in recent years. Known for its wildlife-rich national parks and the highest mountain in Africa, Tanzania is also a tourism draw for its sandy beach archipelago of Zanzibar and wildlife safaris.
In 2010, at least 116 animals and 16 birds, some of them protected species, were illegally exported from Kilimanjaro airport in the north of the country aboard a Qatari plane. They included at least four giraffes, several different types of antelope, hornbills and vultures, according to local media.