Dar, Interpol close in on Karachi animal smuggler

Pakistan has launched an investigation into the alleged smuggling of wild animals, including elephants and lions, from Tanzania. 

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) launched the probe yesterday in Karachi after a request by Interpol, which had been approached by the Tanzanian government.

The government was aware of the investigations, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Khamis Kagasheki, told The Citizen yesterday. 

“We hope for the best out of the investigations,” said Mr Kagasheki when reached by phone on his way to Dodoma, where he was to attend the marathon Budget debate that begins today.

Reports from Islamabad said FIA wrote a letter to the heads of the Karachi Zoological Gardens and Safari Park, asking about the “unlawful export” of wild animals from Africa.

The National Central Bureau—the local arm of Interpol—asked for complete information on the import of wild animals by a Pakistani national and his Karachi-based company (names withheld).

The heads of the government-run facilities were asked to submit a report stating whether such wild animals were in Karachi. Interpol also asked about the credentials of the suspect.

Mr Kagasheki said he could not offer more details as doing so could be taken as interfering with the probe. “What we are sure of is that the suspect is a criminal, but let’s leave it to Interpol to do their investigations,” he said, adding that his ministry was closely following the investigations.

According to reports from Islamabad, four elephants reportedly arrived from Tanzania in 2009 under an agreement with the now-defunct city district government of Karachi.Four lions were confiscated at Karachi airport by the customs in 2010 because the animals were allegedly brought in on an expired permit.

Mr Kagasheki said some of the permits the accused used had been forged and were the subject of investigation by the Pakistani government.The lions, which arrived from Germany, first landed at Islamabad airport before going on to Karachi.

Customs officials found both the importer and the national flag carrier guilty and imposed penalties on them.

The animals were declared government property and kept at the zoo as the wildlife department had no facility to keep them. But the company challenged the verdict and a case has been pending for several months.

Another report said the Tanzanian government had sent the elephants as a gift for the children of Karachi. It was not clear whether this claim was part of the probed by the Pakistani authorities.

Mr Kagasheki brushed aside this claim, saying: “Let’s wait for Interpol and Pakistani’s security organs to complete their investigations.”In August last year, MPs pressured the government to return 132 live animals and birds that were smuggled out of the country in 2010.

In a related development, then Natural Resources and Tourism minister Ezekiel Maige suspended the Director of Wildlife, Mr Obeid Mbangwa, to pave the way for investigations into the smuggling out of 116 and 16 live animals and birds respectively.

Government sources had told The Citizen that there were 180 firms licensed to export live animals.
It was revealed that 116 live animals, including four giraffes, were smuggled out of the country on November 24, last year, aboard a Qatari cargo plane through Kilimanjaro International Airport.

Mr Pinda told the august House that a review would be made on the type of animals to be allowed for export, export procedures to be followed and rates to be paid by exporters.
Source: The Citizen,http://www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Alex Bitekeye and Agencies in Dar es Salaam and Islamabad. 

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