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I. Introduction

Wildlife is crucial to Tanzania’s economy, as it sustains millions of the country’s rural population.[1]  It is also the keystone to the tourism industry—a sector that accounts for about 17% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is the largest source of foreign exchange.[2]  The contribution of the country’s wildlife to the economy is largely through “hunting concessions, trophy licenses, export of live animals, and from non-consumptive tourism.”[3]

Tanzania’s wildlife management system reflects this fact.  The country has sixteen national parks that cover an area of over forty-two thousand square kilometers.[4]  It has the “largest protected area estate in Africa, both absolutely and relatively.”[5]  About 40% of the country is designated as protected estate.[6] 

However, the wildlife management system is not without problems.  For instance, the process of allocating and monitoring hunting concessions is said to be riddled with widespread corruption.[7]  The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism and top Wildlife Department officials were recently fired for taking bribes in exchange for assigning hunting blocks and allowing over a hundred live animals to be shipped abroad.[8]  Poaching is another, grave problem.[9]  Difficulties in collecting evidence and flaws in the criminal justice system make it challenging to prosecute offenders.[10] 

While various laws govern wildlife conservation,[11] only a few are relevant to the issues of wildlife poaching and trafficking.  The Wildlife Conservation Act (WCA)[12] and the National Parks Act (NPA)[13] as well as their subsidiary legislation are the controlling laws in mainland Tanzania.  In the semiautonomous region of Zanzibar, the governing law appears to be the Forest Resources Management and Conservation Act (FRMCA).[14] 

The task of enforcing the controlling laws is equally fragmented.  While the WCA authorizes the establishment of an autonomous body, the Wildlife Authority, to enforce the provisions in mainland Tanzania, the Authority’s reach will not extend to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the national parks.  The task of protecting wildlife resources in the national parks is vested in the Board of Trustees of the Tanzania National Parks, while the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority is tasked with the same role in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  In addition to the planned Wildlife Authority, which when established will be the main enforcement agency, various other government bodies including the police also enjoy some enforcement authority.  In Zanzibar, the Forest Authority is the primary enforcer of the FRMCA. 

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II. The Wildlife Conservation Act

A. Poaching and Trafficking in Wildlife

1. Hunting in Certain Places

Hunting, defined by the WCA as “any act directed or incidental to the killing of any animal,” is prohibited in a game reserve, game controlled area, or wetlands reserve without a permit or in violation of the terms of a permit.[15]  The penalties vary depending on the animal involved (see Table 1.).


Table 1.[16]


List of Animals


WCA First Schedule,
Part I

Sanje Mangabey, oryx, leopard, cheetah, black rhinoceros, highland mangabey, klipspringer, wild dog, abbotts duiker, buffalo, rosevelt sable, hyrax, zebra, giant elephant shrew, puku, lion, caracal, ilomet gazelle, gerenuk, lesser kudu, African elephant, mountain-reedbuck

ShoebilJ (whale headed stock), wattled crane, ilometer falcon, udzungwa forest partridge, green pigeon

Slender Snorted Crocodile

Kihansi Spray Toad

National Game
National Game

Imprisonment from five to ten years and/or a fine ranging from 500,000 Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) (about US$315) to 2 million TZS (about US$1260).

WCA First Schedule,
Part II

African clawless otter, spotted necked otter, hippopotamus, roan antelope, waterbuck-common, waterbuck-defassa, nile crocodile, ostrich, topi, sable antelope, eland, greater kudu.

Imprisonment from two to five years and/or a fine ranging from 200TZS (about US$13) to 500TZS (about US$31).


WCA First Schedule,
Part III

All other animals

Imprisonment from one to three years’ and/or a fine ranging from 100,000TZS (about US$69) to 1 million TZS (about US$630).

All other offenses are punishable by a fine ranging from 200,000TZS (about US$126) to 500,000TZS or one to six months’ imprisonment.[17]

The WCA prohibits the hunting of any protected species[18] in “species management areas.”[19]  The penalties vary depending on the animal.  If the offense involves a protected species, harsh penalties are imposed—imprisonment of three to seven years and/or a fine in the amount of at least twice the value of the animal involved.[20]  All other offenses are punishable by a prison term ranging from three months to two years or a fine ranging from 100,000TZS to 500,000TZS.[21]

Hunting national game (any animal or class of animals declared as such by the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism) without first obtaining a permit is also an offense.  Illegal hunting in this regard is punishable by a prison term ranging from one to five years or a fine equivalent to at least twice the value of the animal.[22]  All other offenses, including a violation of the terms of a permit, are punishable by imprisonment of one to three years or a fine ranging from 300,000TZS (about US$189) to 1 million TZS (about US$630).[23]

2. Hunting of Certain Animals

The WCA makes it an offense to hunt a “specified animal”[24] or a “scheduled animal”[25] without a license or in violation of the terms of one.[26]  Every license includes information regarding the species approved for hunting, the number of animals that may be hunted by the holder of a license, the place where such animal may be hunted, and an expiration date.[27]  The penalties for any violation vary depending on the animal involved (see Table 2.):

Table 2.[28]


List of Animals


WCA First Schedule,
Part I

See Table 1.

Imprisonment from three to ten years and possible fine in the amount of at least twice the value of the animal involved.

WCA First Schedule,
Part II

See Table 1.

Imprisonment from two to five years possible fine in the amount of at least twice the value of the animal involved.

WCA First Schedule,
Part III

See Table 1.

Imprisonment from one to three years and possible fine in the amount of at least twice the value of the animal involved.

Specifying the limit on the number of animals that may be hunted on a license may not be an effective safeguard against unlimited hunting of specified or scheduled animals.  A recent news article on poaching in South Africa, where a similar limit is said to be in place, discussed how international crime syndicates routinely sidestep such limits by simply convincing more people to obtain licenses.[29]  This creates a serious problem, especially if there is no general ceiling on the number of licenses that may be issued within a certain time period.  However, the fact that the WCA criminalizes the transfer of a license or a permit issued for one person to another,[30] if effectively policed, may possibly minimize violations.  In this situation, the WCA holds both the person to whom the license or permit was legally issued and the person who obtains it by fraud criminally responsible.[31]

3. Hunting Methods

Section 65(1) of the WCA prohibits the use of the following hunting methods without first seeking and obtaining written authorization:

(a)  use for the purpose of hunting any animal –

(i)  any mechanically propelled vehicle;

(ii)  any poison, bait, poisoned bait, poisoned weapon, stakes, net, gin, trap, set gun, pitfall, missile, explosives, ball ammunition, snare, hide, spear, fence or enclosure;

(iii) a dog or any domesticated animal;

(iv) any automatic or semi automatic firearm capable of firing more than one cartridge as a result of one pressure of the trigger or of reloading itself more than once without further action by the operator;

(v) any device capable of reducing or designed to reduce the sound made by the discharge of any firearm;

(vi) any artificial light or flare, night vision devises; or

(vii) any anaesthetic dart capable of ilometertion;

(b)  in the process of hunting any animal cause any fire; and

(c)  hunt any animal –

(i)  from any mechanically propelled vehicle or within two hundred metres of such vehicle, except when hunting birds in water;

(ii) other than a hippopotamus, otter, sitatunga, puku, crocodile, water-buck or bird within five hundred metres of any permanent water, pool, waterhole or salt-lick;

(iii) within one ilometer of a national park, a zoo, game sanctuary, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area or an aerodrome; and

(iv) during the hours of darkness.[32]

Use of the any of these prohibited methods is an offense punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine ranging from 1 to 2 million TZS.[33]  If the offense relates to the hunting or killing of an animal, the WCA imposes a mandatory minimum fine equivalent to an amount twice the value of the animal.[34]

The WCA also prohibits the use of certain methods or tools that may be a danger to animals in game reserves, wetlands reserves, and game controlled areas, stating,

(1)  Any person shall not within any game reserve, wetlands reserve or game controlled area–

(a) dig, lay, or construct any pitfall, net, trap, snare or use other device  whatsoever, capable of killing, capturing or wounding any animal; or

(b) carry or have in his possession or under his control any weapon in respect of which he fails to satisfy the Director that it was intended to be used for a purpose other than hunting, killing, wounding or capturing of an animal[.]

. . . [35]

A violation of these bans is an offense punishable by imprisonment ranging from six months to two years and/or 200,000 to 2 million TZS in fines.[36]

Hunting during the closed season is also prohibited except when a permit is issued.  The penalties for a violation of this provision vary depending on the animal involved.[37]  If the offense involves an animal listed in Part I of the Wildlife Conservation Act’s First Schedule, the penalty is three to five years’ imprisonment.[38]  If it involves an animal listed in Part II of the First Schedule, a penalty of two to five years’ imprisonment applies.[39]  If it involves an animal listed in Part III of the First Schedule, the applicable penalty is one to three years’ imprisonment.[40]  In addition to incarceration, the court has the discretion in all three of these cases to impose a fine in the amount of twice the value of the animal involved.[41]  In all other cases the penalty is six to twelve months’ imprisonment and/or a 300,000TZS to 2 million TZS fine.[42]

A. Dealing in Trophies

The WCA imposes bans with regard to the selling, buying, transferring, transporting, accepting, exporting, or importing of trophies.[43]  It specifically bans

  • dealing in a trophy, manufacturing an article from a trophy for sale, or carrying on the business of a trophy dealer without a license; 
  • accepting, buying, manufacturing an article from, selling, or transferring an unregistered trophy;
  • transferring a trophy without a permit;
  • exporting or re-exporting any trophy without a trophy export certificate or, when the export involves species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), export without a CITES permit; and
  • importing a trophy without a proper permit and without compliance with the provisions of CITES.[44]

Violation of any of these provisions is an offense punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine equivalent to twice the value of the trophy.[45]  If the offense involves the import, export, or re-export of a trophy in violation of the above bans or CITES provisions, the trophy is subject to confiscation.[46]

C. Penalties of General Application

In addition to the penalties discussed above, the WCA also imposes further punishment in the form of forfeiture.  Accordingly, whenever a person is convicted of any offense under the WCA, the court is in most cases required to order the forfeiture of any tool used in the commission of the crime (including a weapon, any item used for storing or processing an animal; game meat or trophies; and vehicles, tents, or camping equipment) as well as the fruits of the crime.[47]

The WCA imposes an evidentiary standard in which the prosecution is not required to prove the charges against a suspect beyond a reasonable doubt.  The evidentiary standard used in various cases, including poaching cases, places the burden on the defendant to prove that the animal in question was killed legally.[48] 

D. Enforcement Authority

The WCA authorizes the establishment of a Wildlife Authority, which will be the law’s principal enforcer.  The Authority, an autonomous body, will be primarily involved in “the protection, management and administration of wildlife resources outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and National Parks.”[49]  The Authority is to include a paramilitary unit, the Wildlife Protection Unit, whose functions will include “protection of wildlife against unlawful utilization relating to hunting, capturing and photographing of wildlife and securing of trophies.”[50]  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is said to be in the final stages of establishing this Authority.[51]  At the moment, enforcement authority appears to rest with the Wildlife Division of the Ministry.[52]

In addition to the Wildlife Authority, the WCA gives members of several other government institutions some enforcement authority.  These include the police and select members of various other institutions, including the Forest and Beekeeping Division, the national parks, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Fisheries Division, Wildlife Management Areas, the Marine Parks and Reserve, the Antiquities Division, and any other person so appointed.[53]

The WCA gives all above-listed enforcers, also known as authorized officers, broad search, seizure, and arrest powers.  Whenever any authorized officer has “reasonable ground” to believe that an offense has been or is about to be committed, he is authorized to demand that a person produce “any animal, game meat, trophy or weapon” for inspection.[54]  Such officer may also conduct warrantless searches of “any land, building, tent, vehicle, aircraft, vessel, or bag” in the possession of such person.[55]  In addition, an authorized officer may seize any of the above-listed items in the control of the suspect.[56]  Other authorities of an authorized officer include inspecting licensed premises of trophy dealers and arresting anyone who has violated provisions of the law.[57]

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III.  The National Parks Act

A. Poaching

The NPA prohibits hunting within a national park of any animal or fish, with the exception of “domestic animals,” without a permit.[58]  The penalty for violation of this ban depends on the animal involved:

Table 3.[59]


List of Animals


WCA First Schedule,
Part I

See Table 1.

Imprisonment from three- to five-years and a possible additional penalty of up to 100,000TZS in fines.

WCA First Schedule,
Part II

See Table 1.

Imprisonment from two- to five-years and possible additional fines of up to 50,000TZS.

WCA First Schedule,
Part III

See Table 1.

Imprisonment from one to three years and possible additional fines of up to 20,000TZS.

All other offenses are punishable by a fine in the range of 3,000 to 20,000TZS or a prison term of three months to three years.[60]

The NPA also bans placing anything that may kill an animal (including a pitfall, net, trap, or snare) or carrying a weapon, the purpose of which is to hunt an animal within a national park.[61]  A violation of this provision is an offense punishable by a prison term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to 20,000TZS.[62]

B.  Penalties of General Application

If a person commits an offense under the NPA and no specific penalty is applicable, the person is liable to a fine of up to 10,000TZS and/or imprisonment of up to one year.[63]  In addition to these penalties, the NPA gives courts the discretion to impose the penalty of forfeiture of any tools used in the commission of a crime.[64]

The NPA contains the same evidentiary standard as the WCA, placing the burden of proof on the defendant.[65]

C.  Enforcement Authority

Enforcement of the provisions of the NPA is the primary function of the Trustees of the Tanzania National Parks.  The NPA states that the Trustees’ functions, among others, include controlling, managing, and maintaining national parks.[66]

The Trustees enjoy wide enforcement powers.  They have search, seizure, and arrest powers identical to those of authorized officers under the WCA.[67]  In addition, they enjoy prosecutorial powers and the power to delegate the authority to prosecute in subordinate courts for any and all violations of the NPA provisions and all its subsidiary legislation.[68] 

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IV.  Forest Resources Management and Conservation Act(FRMCA)

A.  Poaching

The FRMCA prohibits hunting or fishing in a Forest Reserve (any land in Zanzibar so declared by the Minister responsible for the management and conservation of forest resources) and any other restricted area without a license.[69]  It also bans use of certain methods of hunting, including setting a “trap, snare or net” or using or possessing “any gun, poison or explosive substance.”[70]  Violation of these bans is an offense punishable by at least six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine in the amount of at least 50,000TZS.[71]

The FRMCA also requires the Minister to issue regulations extending further protection for certain wild animals that are “endangered or threatened with extinction.”[72]  Animals on this list can only be hunted with a special permit issued for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, culling, or control; or in defense of a human life.[73]  Violation of any such regulations is an offense for which the FRMCA stipulates a minimum prison term of six months and/or a fine in the amount of at least 50,000TZS.[74]

B.  Penalties of General Application

The FRMCA provides further penalties in addition to those stated above.  If a court convicts a person for violation of any of the law’s provisions, it is required to issue an order revoking the person’s license, if any,[75] and must also order the person to pay ten times the amount of any royalties and other fees that would have been payable if the act for which the person was convicted had been duly authorized.[76]  The court is further required to issue an order to compel the person to reimburse the Forest Authority for any costs incurred in connection with the offense.[77]  In addition, recidivism within two years from the commission of the previous offense automatically doubles the amount of fines and/or the prison term stipulated for the offense.[78]

C.  Enforcement Authority

Enforcing the FRMCA is the primary task of the Forest Authority.  Among other things, the Forest Authority is required by law to “take appropriate measures to protect and regulate the hunting . . . of wildlife animals.”[79]  However, the Forest Administrator may expand the enforcement authority by appointing any forest officer to be an enforcement officer.[80]

An enforcement officer has far-reaching inspection, seizure, and arrest powers.  He may require any person to produce a license or conduct warrantless searches of any vehicle or building that he reasonably suspects is being used in connection with an act that violates the FRMCA.[81]  The enforcement officer also has the authority to seize anything he finds during a search, “which appears to be” used in committing an offense under the law.[82]  Significantly, an enforcement officer has the authority to arrest anyone whom he reasonably suspects has committed an offense if the person refuses to cooperate or if the officer has reason to believe he is a flight risk.[83]

In addition, enforcement officers enjoy wide prosecutorial powers and may, at their discretion, prosecute anyone suspected of committing an offense under the FRMCA before a magistrate.[84] 

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Hanibal Goitom
Foreign Law Specialist
January 2013

[1] Fred Nelson et al., The Evolution and Reform of Tanzania Wildlife Management, 5(2) Conservation and Society 232, 233–34 (2007),;year= 2007;volume=5;issue=2;spage=232;epage=261;aulast=Nelson.

[2] Id.; World Resource Institute, Focus of Land in Africa Brief: Tanzania 2 (Aug. 2010),

[3] J.R. Kideghesho, Who Pays for Wildlife Conservation in Tanzania and Who Benefits? (Conference Paper, 2008), available at bitstream/handle/10535/587/Kideghesho_102301.pdf? sequence=1.

[4] World Resource Institute, supra note 2, at 2.

[5] Dan Brockington et al., Preserving the New Tanzania: Conservation and Land Use Change, 41(3) Int’l. J. Afr. Hist. Stud. 557, 557 (2008).

[6] Peter G. Veit & Catherine Benson, When Parks and People Collide, Human Rights Dialogue: “Environmental Rights”, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs (Apr. 23, 2004),

[7] Tor A. Benjaminsen et al., Wildlife Management in Tanzania: Recentralization, Rent Seeking, and Resistance 16–17 (Conference Paper, International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, 2011), http://www.iss. nl/fileadmin/ASSETS/iss/Documents/Conference_presentations/NatureInc_Tor_A._Benjaminsen.pdf.

[8] John Burnett, Poachers Decimate Tanzania’s Elephant, NPR (Oct. 25, 2012), 2012/10/25/163563426/poachers-decimate-tanzanias-elephant-herds

[9] John Burnett, In a Tanzanian Village, Elephant Poachers Thrive, NPR (Oct. 25, 2012),

[10] New Tool in Fight Against Bushmeat Poaching in Tanzania, Wildlife Extra (Dec. 2012),

[11] These include: the Forest Act of 2002; the National Parks Ordinance of 1959; the Fisheries Act of 1970, the Marine Parks and Reserves Act of 1994; the Ngorongoro Conservation Ordinance; and the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1974 (now repealed by the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009).  Patricia Kameri-Mboote, Sustainable Management of Wildlife Resources in East Africa: A Critical Analysis of the Legal, Policy and Institutional Frameworks 5 (Int’l Environmental Law Research Centre, Working Paper No. 2005-5, 2005), /w0505.pdf; Kaleb Lameck Gamaya, Legal and Human Rights Centre, Selected Issues for Tanzanian Law Reform: a Review Analysis and Recommendation for Reform 16 (2002).

[12] The Wildlife Conservation Act No. 5 of 2009, available at the Tanzanian Parliament website,  It has not been possible to locate any subsidiary legislation that may be applicable.

[13] The National Parks Act, VII Laws of Tanzania: Principal Legislation, Cap. 282 (rev. ed. 2002). 

[14] Forest Resources Management and Conservation Act No. 10 of 1996, Cv Bill Supplement to the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar Gazette (Oct. 19, 1996) (note that it was not possible to locate the finalized version of the Act or any subsidiary legislation that may be applicable); see also Martin Walsh & Kelle Goldman, Chasing Imaginary Leopards: Science, Witchcraft and the Politics of Conservation in Zanzibar, 6(4) J. East Afr. Stud. 727, 732 (Nov. 2012), available at Taylor & Francis Online, http://www.tandfonline .com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17531055.2012.729778

[15] Wildlife Conservation Act § 19.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] These include species that have been declared protected species by the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, and species found in or migrate to or through Tanzania and that are protected under an international treaty to which Tanzania is a state party.  Id. § 94. 

[19] Id. § 24.  Species management area is “an area subject to active intervention for management purposes in order to ensure the maintenance of habitat or to meet the requirements of specific species.”  Id. § 3.

[20] Id. § 24. 

[21] Id.

[22] Id. § 25.

[23] Id.

[24] Animals listed in the Second Schedule of the WCA including dikdik, eland, bushbuck and impala, pigmy goose, spur fowl, Egyptian goose, and white-backed duck.  Id. § 3.

[25] Animals listed in the Third Schedule of the WCA including golden jackal, python, leopard, wild cat, harlequin quail and common quail.  Id.

[26] Id. § 47.

[27] Id. §§ 46 & 47.

[28] Id. § 47.

[29] Jeffrey Gettleman, Coveting Horns, Ruthless Smugglers’ Rings Put Rhinos in the Cross Hairs, The New York Times (Dec. 31, 2012), africa/ruthless-smuggling-rings-put-rhinos-in-the-cross-hairs.html?hp.

[30] Wildlife Conservation Act § 104. 

[31] Id. §§ 104 &105

[32] Id. § 65.  A limited exception may apply with regard to the hunting of a wounded dangerous animal, an animal specified in the Fourth Schedule of the WCA.  Id. §§ 3 & 72.  Hours of darkness includes a time period “commencing at 6.30 p.m. on any day and expiring at 5.30 a.m. on the following day.”  Id. § 3.

[33] Id. § 65(1).

[34] Id.

[35] Id. § 20.

[36] Id.

[37] Id. § 28.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.

[41] Id.

[42] Id.

[43] “Trophy” is defined as “any animal alive or dead, and any horn, ivory, tooth, tursh, bone, claw, hoof, skin, meat, hair, feather, egg or other portion of any animal and includes a manufactured trophy.”  Id. § 3.

[44] Id. §§ 80-83.

[45] Id. § 84. 

[46] Id. 

[47] Id. § 111.

[48] Id. § 75.

[49] Id. § 8.

[50] Id. §§ 10, 11.

[51] Wildlife Authority to be Established Soon, Daily News (Online Edition) (July 26, 2012),

[52] Wildlife Division, The United Republic of Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, http:// (last visited Jan. 11, 2013).

[53] Wildlife Conservation Act § 3.

[54] Id. § 106.

[55] Id.  When entering into a dwelling house to conduct a warrantless search, authorized officers should make sure that there is at least one independent person present.  Id.

[56] Id.

[57] Id.

[58] The National Parks Act § 23.

[59] Id.

[60] Id.

[61] Id. § 24.

[62] Id.

[63] Id. § 29.

[64] Id.

[65] Id § 31.

[66] Id. § 17.

[67] Id. § 31.

[68] Id. § 27.

[69] Forest Resources Management and Conservation Act § 33.

[70] Id.

[71] Id. § 89.

[72] Id. § 74.  It has not been possible to locate any regulation to this effect.

[73] Id § 75.

[74] Id. § 92.

[75] Id. § 97.

[76] Id.

[77] Id.

[78] Id. § 98.

[79] Id. § 6.

[80] Id. § 9.

[81] Id. § 84. 

[82] Id. § 85.

[83] Id. § 87.

[84] Id. § 88.

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015