To be executed for five years from 2020 to 2025, the strategic plan includes among other things a countrywide census to establish the actual population of the wildlife species regarded as a key national symbol and whose future is being threatened by drastic changes in their natural habitat.
The inauguration of plan was graced by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Khamis Kigwangalla during the 12th Scientific Conference organized by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) at the Arusha International Conference Center (AICC).
“At the moment, Tanzania has an estimated population of 30,000 giraffes but they are facing a number of threats including diseases,” explained Dr Julius Keyyu, the TAWIRI director of research.
Dr Keyyu described diseases currently affecting the tall mammals in the country as the ‘Giraffe Ear Disease,’ which originated from Mikumi National Park and the ‘Giraffe Skin Disease’ first reported in Ruaha National Park.
“At the moment these infections have spread throughout the country, but so far we have yet to formally establish the causes though some infectious worms are suspected to be behind the two diseases,” he explained.
On his part, minister Dr Kigwangala pointed out that other the other catalyst speeding up the giraffe’s extinction is loss of habitats. “Human activities have encroached reserved areas, reducing the wildlife territories,” he specified.
He said Tanzania loses 400,000 hectares of forest cover annually, and the country has witnessed a 15 percent reduction of natural vegetation cover in the last decade.
Backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its ‘Promoting Tanzania’s Environment, Conservation and Tourism (PROTECT) program, the giraffe conservation initiative entails extensive research to find solutions to threats facing the tall mammals.
Through the PROTECT programme, USAID supports interpolations that seek to reduce threats to biodiversity such as human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss and wildlife trafficking.
The programme also empowers a wide range of organizations to participate effectively in the policy-making process. It also seeks to build the capacity of institutions working with wildlife conservation and tourism, he affirmed.
Another targeted area is leveraging private sector investment in the wildlife tourism sub-sector and support local partners to implement conservation activities at a landscape scale.
The 12th TAWIRI Scientific Conference, running under the theme ‘Sustainable future for Tanzania’s Biodiversity Conservation: The science behind priority, strategy and benefit,’ addresses natural resource governance and infrastructure development.
It also examines human-wildlife interactions and land use profiles, wildlife diseases and ecosystem health, plus wildlife ecology and ecological interactions.
Other topics for presentations include climate change and wildlife conservation, biodiversity inventory of flora and fauna, along with hydrology and wetland resources conservation.
Still other discussions will focus on wildlife habitat, range lands and invasive species, vegetation ecology and ethno-botany, as well as beekeeping and api-tourism (sustainable tourism in beekeeping areas).