ARUSHA, Tanzania, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania is in final stages to transforming mode of operation for the country's wildlife and forest institutions into paramilitary in a bid to reinforce anti-poaching battle, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Japhet Hasunga, Tanzania's Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism said that the institutions which are to be operated under paramilitary system include Tanzania National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, Tanzania Wildlife Authority and Tanzania Forest Services.
"We [are] finalizing all essential procedures to run the paramilitary," he said, noting that once the paramilitary system is in full swing, management of the east African nation's natural resources will be improved.
According to Hasunga, non-military staffs of the wildlife and forest institutions are currently undergoing training in a camp located in western Tanzania's district of Mlele.
The official said that reckless killings of wildlife particularly large mammals like elephants and wantonly tree felling remained a serious challenge to the country's natural resources.
He said that the destruction of forest in the country is highly attributed to the increase of human activities beyond the procedures and laws of the forest.
He said that recently about 108 non-military staffs have been trained on the paramilitary system. "The paramilitary training encompasses a wide range of skills such as wildlife and forest conservation skills, proper use of weapons to curb poaching incidents as well as leadership, and ethics," he said.
At independence, Tanzania had 350,000 elephants. During the first wave of intense poaching between 1970 and the 1980s, there were only 55,000 elephants left in 1987.
A recent census at the Selous-Mikumi ecosystem, one of the country's biggest wildlife sanctuaries, revealed the elephant population had gone down to just 13,084, from 38, 975 in 2009, representing a 66-percent decline.
The current deforestation rate in Tanzania is approaching 373,000 hectares per year, making it among the highest in East Africa.