When photo tourism used to save wildlife in Burunge WMA

07Jul 2016
Lusekelo Philemon
The Guardian
When photo tourism used to save wildlife in Burunge WMA

NEARLY 200 large mammals in northern Tanzania’s sanctuary have been saved from being killed after a tourist hunting firm—EBN Hunting Safari Ltd abandoned hunting activities (which is its core business) and opted for photo tourism, a sustainable way of managing wildlife resources.

The area is widely known for its large buffalo population that moves in and out of Tarangire.

The firm owns a hunting block in Burunge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in Tanzania's wildlife-rich northern tourist circuit, which is very close to Tarangire and Manyara National Parks.

The WMA occupies the land and the migratory corridors between Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and the adjacent Manyara ranch, making it an area of high conservational significance. The area is widely known for its large buffalo population that moves in and out of Tarangire.

The presence of Lake Burunge in the WMA attracts the migration of water birds such as greater and lesser flamingoes and a range of ducks and shore birds.

The law allows a hunting tourist firm to kill 24 animals per year such as elephants, lions, and buffaloes, but for the last four years EBN Hunting Safari Ltd, didn’t do so and instead decided to conserve them as part of the company to complement government’s efforts of saving wild animals, which are under threat of being extinct due to reckless poaching.

The tourist hunting industry dates back in 1946 when game controlled areas were established and divided into hunting blocks whereby Professional hunters and their clients could hunt trophy animals.

Leonard Werema, Human Resource and Relations manager of the firm owning a hunting block in the Burunge WMA, said that they have decided stop from hunting “despite the fact that the law allows us to so, because of the increasing poaching incidents in the country’s sanctuaries”.

Instead of killing them, the official said: “We’re putting better mechanisms to make them live comfortably. We’re now concentrating in photo tourism, which is sustainable ways of managing wildlife resources in the country.”

According to Werema, the move has helped to boost the number of wild animals in the community-owned sanctuary. We’ve been seeing the number of visitors increasing in the area as they are assured of seeing the big five.

This alone makes the government get its revenue and WMA benefit out of conservation initiatives.”
If they were to kill, six elephants, eight lions, ten buffaloes would have been killed in the area every year.

“We stopped hunting animals in the area since 2013 despite paying US$ 60,000 as annual fees for the hunting block, US$ 26,000 to Burunge WMA and US$ 27,000 as fees for trophies.”

The official suggested the need for the government to ban hunting tourism as it’s very difficult to control the number of animals that are to be hunted at the same time poachers use the opportunity to kill animals.

One of the owners of the firm, Nicolas Negre, said that it’s high time for the hunting business to come to an end and instead the government should stick to promoting photo tourism. “If you kill a lion, elephants today that is the end of the story,” he said, suggesting the need for the government to review the law for the best of tourism.

Dr. Joel Bendera, Manyara Regional Commissioner cited Burunge WMA as an important area for tourism, “but we need to promote sustainable and responsible tourism. This endeavor will lure more tourists, than today.”

“As regional authorities, we’re encouraging the endeavors taken by this company of abandoning their core business of hunting at the expense of saving wildlife. We need more companies to emulate this spirit, which is healthier to the tourism industry in Tanzania,” the RC said.

The new initiative came at the time when Tanzania recorded 43,000 of elephants in its sanctuaries from 109,000 some years ago. The plummeting number of elephants has been contributed by the booming ivory trade in the international markets.

Last month, WWF issued a new analysis which said that one of Africa’s oldest reserves could see its elephant population decimated by 2022 if urgent measures are not taken to stem industrial-scale poaching.

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania’s largest protected area, was home to one of the greatest concentrations of African elephants on the continent, but rampant ivory poaching has seen the population reduced by 90 percent in fewer than 40 years. Nearly 110,000 elephants once roamed the savannahs, wetlands and forests of Selous, but now only about 15,000 remain in the ecosystem.

The analysis, produced for WWF by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, shows how the loss of Selous’ elephants would have a negative effect on Tanzania’s nature-based economy, putting the livelihoods of 1.2 million people at risk.

Travel and tourism in Selous generate US$6 million annually, and the industry represents a combined yearly contribution of US$5 billion to the GDP of Tanzania, which holds world-renowned assets such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park.

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