Interview with an Ex-Poacher, Tanzania
by Lisa Jorgensen and Ogossy Gasaya
Please read Nature of Poachers for more information
Anonymous Ex-Poacher, Tanzania Interview Conducted and translated by Ogossy Gasaya
How old are you now and how old were you when you were introduced to poaching?
I'm 45 years old, I started poaching when I was 19 years and started as a porter.
How were you introduced to poaching? We people living in remote areas have only one source of income, the farming activities. In our village, the other simple and paying economic activities is the poaching. Through observation of how my age group is earning money by poaching, this encourages me also to involve in this business.
What level of education do you have currently? I'm a standard seven (primary level of education) and I have no professional apart from poaching which now I resigned from.
Tell me about the community in which you lived before poaching and now. As I have said responding to 2nd questionnaire, we depend only on farming especially rice farming which done at a small scale level of not more than five acres per person/household. Even if you produce more harvest the market is another case that faces these communities because we don't have reliable transportation facilities to support our efforts in order to get best price in town and big cities where at least we can get high prices to our produce. At least now I can say things has changed a bit. Know days businessmen come from far looking for rice and other agricultural produce and due to this, there is little competition which helps to the price to be higher as you compare to the previous time. Even to me also the earnings from farming are somehow convincing as to compare to the 20 years back.
How do you feel about the animals you poach(ed)? Do you view them as sentient beings? Products? What I know is that all animals are for us to use them, it is our right! But I don't understand why the government keeps shouting to people to stop killing wild animals which are God's gift to human beings. I can say they are products that have be consumed.
Approximately how many animals have you poached? Actually, when I started poaching, it is non-selective bushmeat, ivory, etc. approximately big number of antelopes and hippos for bushmeat and not less than 21 elephants which I shot my self and 43 elephants shot by coacher when I was a porter.
What types of animal do/did you poach? Mostly elephants for ivory because it is highly paying compared to other animal products
Do/did you enjoy poaching? I enjoyed it much because is an opportunity to meet and keep in touch with many people of different status, also I became familiar to many areas where we visited during poaching era.
Do you have other employment? Only farming!
What would have to happen in order for you to stop poaching? I stopped poaching because of education we were given several times on the importance of conserving nature for our benefit and future generation. The programme was given by Wildlife Division - the community-based conservation education department.
Do you engage in any other illegal trade? If so, what?
Explain your ideal lifestyle?
Not clearly understood
If you are a current poacher, what would be your next move if the animals you poach become extinct? If elephants become extinct I would opt for another valuable and easily available animal.
How do you feel about conservationists and authority figures trying to end poaching? Since now I'm aware of the importance of conserving, they are right to stop poaching because through their effort there are communal benefits ( the current and the future generation).
Do you think they will succeed? Why/why not? They will because the government is nowadays investing more effort on anti-poaching and also international organization is shouting everywhere about stoping poaching especially on threatened species of fauna.
What should conservationists focus on the most to reduce and end poaching? Providing education to communities on the importance of wild animals to the local communities. Also, the government has to find alternative ways of raising the rural economy for rural people not left behind economically that mostly lead to poverty hence poaching as the alternative means of life.