NEWS > EVERYONE ELSE > ALBINO HUNT COMES UNDER FIRE IN AFRICA
ALBINO HUNT COMES UNDER FIRE IN AFRICA
October 24 2009
Dodoma, Tanzania – Mariam Staford Bandaba is like many other people living in Tanzania. Her life in the East African country has never been easy. Like her fellow Tanzanians, Bandaba has had difficulty finding work and making ends meet. With a
per capita GDP of only $800, life across the country is very difficult. That has only been exacerbated in recent years as widespread drought has taken a toll on the primary source of income for the country, electricity generation. For Bandaba that life is all that much harder due to her lack of hands.
Staford Bandaba lost those hands in a brutal attack last year, a part of growing culture surrounding the hunting of Albinos throughout the country. Seen as an important ingredient in many potions, Albinos have steadily become more endangered throughout the country as a result of drastic overhunting. Staford Bandaba is a living
testament to that over hunting as she, and now many government officials, fear that the over hunting will result in potential eradication of Albinos across the country, leaving witchdoctors with limited supplies of the body parts believed to bring good fortune. Now Staford Bandaba’s story is leading the charge for change across the country that could potentially revolutionize Albino hunting laws across the country.
“Some of the attackers were found not guilty, so we can't keep them in prison, so they will be allowed to return to the village according to the law. But those found guilty are still in prison awaiting their fate. Those who are responsible, all their relatives are still living there in the village, and those released from prison, are still living where we were living. So how can we stay there?” said Staford Bandaba who at the time was inside the protected area during the off-season. “I can't imagine what will happen. What I did in front of him was just start crying. The government only seems to be doing half its duty. Albinos are still being hunted and we don't yet know how to solve the problem.”
The Tanzanian government has created specific hunting zones for Albinos, zones which move frequently in order to allow hunters access to the targets in their natural habitat, though Staford Bandaba was outside the zone at the time of her attack. Such infractions are becoming more common as the population dwindles.
“We fully recognize the issue surrounding Albinos in Tanzania, something which has now spread into Burundi. By our counts 53 Albino persons have been killed in the last two years, a number which is far larger than is acceptable. Such illegal activities will be halted by the strictest forms available to us,” said a government spokesperson. “We will not tolerate this behaviour in our country. We fully understand the repulsion and fear that people have when faced with a person that is afflicted with Albinism but that is not an excuse to break the law either for personal reasons or for financial gain. We will prosecute all offenders to the extent of the law.”
It’s not clear how many Albinos continue to live across Tanzania though it’s believed that the supply will continue to drop should the government, which has a poor track record, be unwilling or unable to crack down on the illegal killings.
“It’s a simple numbers game. If you remove everyone with the particular pigment abnormality they will be unable to breed and before you know it the stock will be completely dry. That will encourage illegal trading with other countries. Witchdoctors, especially in this economy, need to band together in order to preserve their business,” said Scrape TV Business analyst Ken Green. “There are very few countries on the world that allow open range hunting of Albinos and a shortage in Tanzania could result in widespread problems throughout the region and beyond. The hunters and the profiteers need to understand that the supply is not limitless and unless they cull their efforts they will be very deep financial trouble sooner rather than later.”
Exact numbers for the global population of Albino’s varies throughout the world. Tanzania has not reported official numbers in a number of years.