Tanzania has recommended that punitive measures be taken against top wildlife officials after establishing that the animal died as a result of their negligence and misconduct.
In its report handed over to the premier yesterday, the committee calls for disciplinary action against the Director of Wildlife, Prof Alexander Songorwa, and Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) official Dr Moris Kileo for failing to do their duty.
The team, led by government chief chemist Prof Samuel Manyele, also provided details on how sheer laxity by wildlife officials in the whole process of shifting Rhino John from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the Sasakwa VIP Grumeti Reserve further contributed to the animal’s eventual demise.
“The team established that there was negligence by officials of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) and from the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources with regard to the factors that led to the transfer of the animal from Ngorongoro to a private conservation area,” said Prof Manyele.
Songorwa, in his capacity as director of wildlife in the ministry, failed to issue an official permit for Rhino John to be moved, while Dr Kileo failed to follow up on the animal’s health after it was moved, meaning Rhino John did not receive any medical care.
According to the committee, various other weaknesses noted in the whole process of shifting the animal pointed to personal interests by wildlife officials who wanted to enrich themselves out of the Rhino John transfer affair.
The presence of several wildlife-related entities with almost the same powers over such matters created more confusion over who exactly was supposed to be doing what at particular moments, the report said.
The entities mentioned include the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), NCAA, TANAPA, and the department of wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
The report also asserted that the director of wildlife has too many powers to make important decisions related to wildlife conservation, calling for the inclusion of representatives from national security organs in the technical and steering committees of the various wildlife agencies to ensure that national interests are always taken into account.
After receiving the report, PM Majaliwa said an announcement will be made soon on the government’s decisions on the matter based on the report.
“We will let the public know the government’s stance on the matter after going through the report and getting further advice from other stakeholders,” he said.
On a visit to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area last December, Majaliwa formed a team of experts to look into the mysterious disappearance of Rhino John, one of the few examples of the endangered black rhino species still to be seen in the country.
The team involved experts from the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, the Government Chief Chemist, Prevention and Combating of Corruption Board (PCCB), and Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS), among others.
The PM was told during his visit about the missing rhino, with some quarters suggesting that it had probably been sold. But it was later reported that Rhino John had died while being kept in the private Sasakwa Grumeti Reserve where it was relocated after reportedly causing chaos in the crater by attacking other mammals in its quest for territorial supremacy.
The probe committee went into the crater and took DNA samples from John’s offspring to find out whether they matched with a dead rhino horn that was delivered by wildlife officials to Majaliwa’s office as proof of John’s death.