UNESCO acts on concerns over Selous conservation


(Posted 21st June 2014)

There is a prize to pay for everything you do in life and Tanzania is now paying for what our government allows to happen in the Selous’ said a regular conservation source from Dar es Salaam when discussing UNESCO’s move to put the Selous Game Reserve on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites. ‘Our government’s biggest failure was to stop the poaching. It is a fact well known now that the government has clear evidence in its possession about the scale of the poaching. Let them not start to shed crocodile tears now after the elephant population census figures are known. Losing that many elephant in just the space of 7 years is unacceptable. We have become ‘POACHING CENTRALor the world’s poaching capital as far as our elephant are concerned. There is no other country in the world with such a terrible record like us and the figures were submitted in parliament last year, officially over 10.000 elephant killed but in reality it was probably more’. The source then continued with other issues negatively impacting on the Selous’s status with UNESCO when saying: ‘Then there is the issue of Uranium mining. Even if the government degazettes these two or three hundred square kilometres to make mining legal the impact on the game reserve’s water sources and contamination by dust will still be there. Uranium is a toxic substance and whatever is dug up and processed will remain above ground and when it rains the toxins will reach the ground water and when it is dry the wind will blow the toxic dust across the reserve’ in reference to plans to have large scale mining of Uranium take place. In closing the source then added: ‘Finally there is Stiegler’s Gorge. It is at the heart of the present tourism zone of the Selous. If the government wants to build a dam there it will catastrophically change the habitat of game and birds because a wide area will be flooded. How can someone in government tell me there is the new opportunity for water sports or fishing on that new lake? Visitors come from abroad to see the game in the Selous, not to fish or sail or water ski. Our government got it all wrong and those who know it are intimidated and silenced’.

The news comes at the same time when the East African Court of Justice just delivered a damning indictment on the Tanzanian government’s plans to build a highway across the Serengeti and while the ruling reads that no bitumen road shall be allowed to be built, what the government initially intended to do, the option of a gravel road still remains on the table.

UNESCO has similar concerns about Zanzibar’s Stone Town where the building of a new hotel by Hyatt is putting the UNESC World Heritage status also at risk. An Arusha based source therefore added: ‘The track record of the Kikwete government in conservation is dismal. There is still the issue about Lake Natron, the removal of the Eastern Arc Mountains from the application list and plans to destroy the Coelacanth marine national park near Tanga where they plan to build a new harbour. This government has started one never ending story of unsustainable exploitation, destruction and desolation benefitting few. It has harmed our reputation abroad about being the leading conservation nation in East Africa’.

Tourism stakeholder have expressed their concern about the impact of listing the Selous into the engangered species bracket of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites claiming it may depress demand for safaris to the world’s largest game reserve.

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