TAWA abandoning crocodile auctions for fences is reasonable

02Jan 2020
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
TAWA abandoning crocodile auctions for fences is reasonable

NEWS at the start of the week had it that the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) is reading a project to address human-wildlife conflicts near conservation areas in a different way than it had projected earlier.

At the time that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced that it would put to auction 10percent of the country’s crocodiles evidently to be culled in tourist hunting for instance, some of us thought that the amount was rather conservative. We thought the country doesn’t needs thousand of crocodiles in each major fresh water system, but that wasn’t the main issue in the new idea.

At that time there was a plan to ‘sell’ all hippos found in lakes, dams and rivers located close to inhabited area, which correctly implied that only hippos in safe areas in national parks and game reserves should remain, otherwise the rest should be hunted at will.

It implies that these animals not be considered ‘government trophies’ but pests like any other, thinking of warthogs, burrow rats and the like.

Now it appears that wildlife managers had a problem especially with designing a credible plan to sell just 10 percent of all crocodiles. In a sense it was a case of the TAWA managers jamming themselves by figures.

TAWA is now saying that they dropped the harvesting and auction approach because it wouldn’t change matters considering the reproduction cycle of crocodiles, which it finds to be ‘complicated.’

Obviously TAWA could have adopted the same mechanism as with hippos that they be confined to the wild, as people don’t settle in national parks and game reserves, in which case those found in habited areas be eradicated. But conservation sentiments, and outright bureaucratic attitudes are still too intense to accept simple formulas, where villagers hunt crocodiles within their vicinity but then permits must be issued.

TAWA are focused on the technicality that crocodiles lay up to about 40 eggs, therefore it is not easy to kill all of them or for that matter kill just 10 percent of those being hatched and survive various predators.

Still TAWA is right to observe that even a single crocodile in a water body can kill depending on the dimension (interaction of human activity with crocodile habitats, where women fetching water in rivers are usual targets for crocodile attacks).

They ask how many of these animals are people supposed to kill to be satisfied that the problem would at least be contained, and TAWA finds this problem imponderable as it means killing so many of them. But that just means clearing out crocs in areas that are inhabited.

As the government has a conservation streak that is too pronounced to accept that crocodiles near villages simply be eliminated, there is a proposal for the fencing project, for which TAWA is considering model action for the new approach in one of the water bodies.

The idea is to separate ‘operation areas’ for human beings and wildlife, marked areas for communities to co-exist with the animals, the way villages are now demarcating livestock grazing areas and farming zones.

Many will complain that there is too much emphasis on crocodile preservation whereas those in the wild are adequate, without need for those in village areas. But let the benefit of doubt be given to TAWA, raise fences and let’s see what happens. We have enough areas for wildlife to tolerate crocs, hippos, elephants in villages.