Poaching down, local travel up, but wildlife sector challenges remain

28Oct 2018
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
Poaching down, local travel up, but wildlife sector challenges remain

Core Areas fall under the category of total protection and everything contained in the area around the national park is highly needed for conservation of wildlife animals.

Tanzania’s domestic travel spending was Sh.752.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to growth by 6.1 per cent by 2024. Photo: File

Thus, nothing is taken out of the core area, dead or alive, as the area mostly serves as a breeding ground for wild animals, a US study on biosphere and man has observed.

Wild animal expert from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Atilio Tagalile made these remarks on the study at a just concluded media training on the wildlife sector in Bagamoyo.

He said the only thing allowed in the park is leaving with one’s own memories which can be boosted through taking of photographs.

However, a study by a US organization titled ‘Man and Biosphere’ done in past decades categorized Tanzania wildlife conservation into four categories based on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the core areas are national parks and then game reserves controlled by the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA).

National parks and game reserves allow both photographic tourism and hunting, with Selous Game Reserve (SGR) a good example of areas where hunting is also allowed by the Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES).

He said at the inception of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, there were only scattered Maasai reservations having not more than 1,000 cattle.

“With time, things change as there are over 100,000 cattle and the Maasai population has also been increasing quite considerably,” he said, noting that this has led to increasing competition for grass between cattle and wild animals.

The fourth category represented a forest under which people are allowed to manage and harvest timber sustainably, the trainer elaborated.

However, with all these categories and restrictions on activities allowed in the parks and conservation areas, human settlements have caused devastation on elephant and rhino populations, decimated tremendously by 90 per cent from 110, 000 to 15,712 in recent years.

Around 2014, Unesco placed Selous Game Reserve into the list of endangered World Heritage Site (WHS), and industrial poaching has stopped not only in the Selous but also in the country, thanks to the fifth phase government, apart from the Chinese government’s decision to ban trade in ivory.

He told participants that poaching on a small scale is still going on but the good news from the Selous is that in the past three years, there have been seven carcasses of elephants, and only two were a result of poaching.

This is contrary to 2014, with less than ten elephant carcasses showing major progress in the anti poaching war.

Tagalile said wildlife trafficking was still a problem in Tanzania and other African countries.

 “You have the poacher, the middle man and the buyer of wildlife products locally and internationally,” he said.

It is a strong and vicious chain that requires committed media coverage to fathom its operations,” he asserted.

Ivory trade ban by the Chinese government has led to increased prices both for ivory and live animals like the pangolin, researchers affirm.

At the policy level, wildlife is seen as a unique natural heritage and resource that is of great importance nationally and globally, said Joseph Olila, a senior program specialist (natural resource management and policy) from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Tanzania’s domestic travel spending was Sh.752.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to growth by 6.1 per cent by 2024 and generate 170,821 additional jobs.

In 2013, the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority collected about Sh. 47 billion from 507, 984 tourists, while the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) collected revenues of Sh.105 billion from 750,977 tourists in the same year.

Game viewing (photographical tourism) in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, national parks and a few game reserves including Selous are among the main forms of wildlife utilization.

Olila noted that game viewing has a great potential for earning considerable local and foreign currency and providing employment (hotels and restaurants, transport, communication, financial services).

Also, tourist hunting is an economically viable and sustainable use of wildlife that is consistent with the policy of high quality, yet low density tourism that can contribute significantly to the national economy, he stated. 

Speaking of wildlife farming, breeding and ranching, Olila said this is not well developed, as there are few facilities operating as wildlife farms or breeding centers, basically for trade in live animals.

Eco-tourism is also an important undertaking in the Tanzanian tourism industry due to its consideration to social, cultural and environmental aspects. It helps to conserve natural resources as well as social and cultural values, he said.

Despite its endowment and economic potential to the nation and local communities, the wildlife sector has not been able to develop to its full potential due to number of challenges, he said.

Among them is failure of wildlife conservation as a form of land use to compete adequately with other forms of land use, especially to village communities.

Other challenges are persistent illegal taking of wildlife and conducting wildlife trade, low budgetary allocation for conservation and development of the wildlife sector and poor infrastructure in wildlife areas.

Increases in human-wildlife conflicts, inadequate awareness and knowledge on the value of wildlife, inadequate policy, legal and institutional response and climate change, along with invasive species were also mentioned as challenges facing the wildlife sector.

In supporting the wildlife sector in the country, each stakeholder has a role to play whereby the private sector has the function of supporting the government in conservation, development and sustainable utilization of wildlife through investing in the wildlife sector, he pointed out.

Non-government organizations should also support the government by taking part in the conservation, management and development of wildlife resources.

The public has a role to support government efforts in the conservation, management, development and sustainable utilization of wildlife resources, he further stated.

Individuals can also participate in protection and benefiting from wildlife by setting aside wildlife conservation areas on their land, he said.

Media training on the wildlife sector was organized by the Journalists for Environment Tanzania (JET) with financial support from USAID.

USAID is implementing a PROTECT Project (Promoting Tanzania’s Environment, Conservation and Tourism.)   The project addresses the dynamics that threaten biodiversity conservation and inhibit private sector led tourism growth by strengthening Tanzanian organizations that are, or should be, at the forefront of wildlife and conservation policy reform and implementation.

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