Establishing zoos, wildlife gardens works with a more open economy

09Jan 2020
The Guardian
Establishing zoos, wildlife gardens works with a more open economy

MOMENTUM is on the way to being built in the tourism sector, on the basis of up and coming initiatives from different quarters, but more significantly from the government, and President John Magufuli personally.

He has underscored the need for more capable Tanzanians to establish zoological gardens to enclose various wild animals as part of an initiative to expand opportunities in the tourism sector and create jobs. That is a welcome plan as Tanzania needs to make use of its comparative advantage in that sector, not just crops.

A late last week report cited the president’s remarks praising Tanzanians who have established zoos at different places countrywide, which apparently relates to expertise in the area, or a related field. When a former top commander in the defence forces opens such a garden, it is a related profession for a military expert knows next to everything about the bush, and can employ an expert for other needs. What is vital about this appeal is that it provides a new opening for professionals to exercise in their field, as it is likely to happen if currently monopolized sectors open their doors so that opportunities rise. It is something that is not quite discussed as yet.

While - as the president noted - establishing zoological gardens is guided by the Wildlife Conservation Act, 2009 (Number 5) which affirms that Tanzanians have the right to acquire animals by following procedures and the law guiding the sector, in practice it isn’t so easy. The law for instance allows entrepreneurs to breed or capture wildlife that isn’t crucial for any national purpose to sell outside, but this is the fourth year consecutively that the trade is banned. Zoos or such gardens may come under pressure as well.

As the president issued the call when addressing officials and game wardens during a visit at the Rubondo Island National Park, it would be helpful to scan the minds of his audience for clues. Would they not start worrying about competition for visitors, whether it is to cheap zoos and wildlife gardens scattered all over the country, or  a tourist visits more expensive national park sites or stay in its lodges?

In that case if the major issue is to create more jobs in the sector, and in an auxiliary manner have more organized pursuit of visitors both local and foreign, structural changes might be useful to create some momentum in that direction. So far the northern circuit is widely known around the world and gets visitors, while the southern and western circuits look like they are wagons with a northern circuit engine. Unless competition is created at organizational level, not between national park managers but different stakeholder units and combinations of interests, little will be done, but repetition of errors.

The president emphasized that Tanzanians have the right to acquire and keep wild animals for local and international visitations, even mentioning South Africa as a country where many people benefit from the zoo business. It isn’t clear how much in our method of organization squares up with South Africa, but citing this particular case means that at upper levels of government, many will be ready to learn. The key point is tourism organizations and companies set in competition about attractions, package prices, hotel/camp varieties and other aspects, including specialized menus for visitor batches. (ends)

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