Mystery surrounds lion hunting permits the Arusha-based Marera Safaris Lodge and Tours (T) Ltd allegedly used last year in Iringa District's Idodi and Pawaga Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which is managed by a body known as Mbomipa.
Mbomipa is an association formed by 21 villages bordering the Ruaha National Park and is aimed at involving community members in efforts to conserve fauna and flora in the surrounding areas.
The main objective is to benefit from the efforts through the sustainable sale of locally available wild animals for trophies and game meat and the promotion of tourism.
Marera Safaris Tours is alleged to have overshot its animal quota allocation during last July-December's hunting season by harvesting four lions instead of two and 12 zebras instead of eight, contrary to the contract it entered on July 30, 2007 with Mbomipa.
However, Marera Safaris and wildlife management department officials contacted for comment in Arusha dismissed the allegations as baseless and malicious.
The complexity of the matter lies in conflicting reports on the issue as given by wildlife officials in Arusha Region, where Marera Safaris obtained the permit, and Iringa District - where the hunting of the animals is said to have taken place.
Documents in Iringa show that the four lions were harvested in Mbomipa's WMA in Iringa District, while those in Arusha show that Marera Safaris harvested only two lions in the area as per its quota allocation.
According to the latter documents, the other two lions were in the Chaya open area in Tabora Region.
Official correspondence from Iringa District game officer Eniyoye John to the director of wildlife in the Natural Resources and Tourism ministry and minutes on various meetings held by Mbomipa members and trustees show that Marera Safaris used permit number 19327 to hunt a lion at Mdekwa in Iringa District.
It further shows that permit number 17697 was used to hunt one lion at Kibaoni Lunda South, permit number 17437 to hunt another lion at Kibaoni Lunda South, and permit number 19066 to hunt yet another lion at Igawa Lunda South, all in the same district.
Other correspondence on the saga, PST can authoritatively report, are a May 17, 2008 letter on the assessment of decisions by the Mbomipa board of trustees on hunting activities in the block. It is signed by the association's chairman, Leonard Chengula, and secretary J. G. Kisanyage.
There is also a May 21, 2008 letter with reference number G.10/IR/89/120 signed by J. A. Hante on behalf of the Iringa District Executive Officer and addressed to the Wildlife Department director. Both letters point an accusing finger at Marera Safaris.
Sources say the company contravened the terms of contract between it and Mbomipa and violated the laws governing wildlife conservation by overcropping lions and zebras.
The contract states that investors were bound to adhere to their responsibility and duty of conserving natural resources as stipulated in Government Notice No. 284 and the 1974 Wildlife Conservation Act.
Marera Safaris is also alleged to have used professional hunters operating without licences contrary to the law on wildlife conservation and tourist hunting regulations.
The law directs tourist hunters to conduct their activities only within stipulated blocks while accompanied by a duly licensed professional hunter Contacted for comment, an assistant director in the Wildlife Department who gave her name as Miriam Zacharia advised PST to seek elaboration from Frank Mremi.
She said the latter was an official with the Arusha wildlife department office.
Zacharia said it was Mremi who had been handling the issue because the permits were issued in Arusha.
ut Mremi instead directed PST to one Silvanus Okudo of the Wildlife Department head office in Dar es Salaam.
"I have submitted a report on the whole matter to the head office. Please, contact Silvanus Okudo and you will get everything you want," said Mremi.
Okudo would not be drawn into remarking on the issue, saying he was not the ministry's spokesperson.
He said the ministry's permanent secretary or information officer would be in a better position to give the information sought.
Reached for comment last week, Marera Safaris' managing director Hilary Daffi said all allegations against his company were without foundation and emanated from "envious people wanting to take our hunting block from us".
The company's lawyer, Median Mwale, said his client had not breached any contract and law. In a signed June 4, 2008 letter to Mbomipa chairman Chengula and board of trustees secretary Faraj M. Abri, he too categorically dismissed the allegations by saying that those behind the matter were driven by ill motives.