THE government has defended the current position of imposing higher fines on pastoralists who invade various reserves in the country for grazing, than the compensation paid to citizens for destructions of crops and their homes following invasion of elephants.

Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Ms Mary Masanja told the National Assembly that the aim of imposing such high rates was to prevent pastoralists from bringing their livestock into reserved areas.

She appealed to all pastoralists not to take their livestock into protected areas.

The deputy minister was responding to a supplementary question from Ester Bulaya (Special Seats-Chadema), who noted the existence of a double standard in the imposition of fines.

She pointed out that the people around national parks were heavily fined when they enter various parks, including those around the Serengeti National Park, as compared to those paid when elephants invade people’s homes and destroy their crops.

The MP wanted to know when the government would adjust the fines imposed to compensate the citizens affected by elephant invasion to be more realistic.

The deputy minister replied that it was true there were such challenges for pastoralists being heavily fined. Ms Masanja was, however, quick to point out that the amount was imposed as prescribed by the law.

The deputy minister reassured the MPs that what the government was taking such measures meant to restrict livestock from being taken to reserved areas.

“The government has always intervened whenever elephants invade villages by guiding them back to the reserved areas, but it should be observed that in some cases, the people are the ones who encroach into elephants’areas. Thus, the purpose of imposing such high rates is to prevent pastoralists from bringing their livestock into the reserves,” she noted.

In this regard, the deputy minister urged the lawmakers to cooperate with the government, so that is not seen as a matter for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism alone.

“We enacted these laws ourselves and we are the ones who have to enforce them. Pastoralists are directed not to encroach protected areas,” Ms Masanja said.

In the basic question, Joseph Kakunda (Sikonge-CCM) wanted to know why the government was not using electronic receipts when imposing fines to livestock keepers who trespass Sikonge reserved areas.