Tanzania’s conservation record in the recent past has been all but destroyed with the worst elephant slaughter in history, presided over by a government clearly not bothered at all other from making periodic statements but never really following through. Following prolonged denials that the problem even existed, attempting to criminalize those who dared to expose the evil and only reluctantly owning up to the scale of the elecide, was action slow in coming.
Yet, according to a new conservation source from Tanzania, are there silver linings on the horizon, albeitt private sector driven and community based and therefore perhaps too early to draw a conclusion if indeed the present activism is temporary while the election campaign is being fought or will last into the early days of a new government.
HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY BASED ELEPHANT PROTECTION IN TANZANIA
The global elephant poaching crisis and illegal ivory trade has been well publicized, as has the devastating decline of Tanzania’s elephant population from an estimated 109,000 in 2009 to just over 43,000 in November 2014.
Amidst this all, and the similarly devastating collapse of Mozambique’s elephant population over the same period, there have been some outstanding successes of effective elephant protection in some of Tanzania’s community based wildlife conservation areas. For example, the facts about anti-poaching in Tanzania’s southernmost Region, Ruvuma, bordering Mozambique and the Niassa National Reserve show meaningful successes brought about by a firm commitment and sound strategy.
The Ruvuma Elephant Project (REP) in southern Tanzania is funded primarily by two American foundations, the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation & The Wildcat Foundation. It is situated between the Selous Game Reserve and the Niassa National Reserve, which was a major target area for international ivory poaching syndicates in the 1980s as well as most recently again since 2009. Amongst other factors, the porous border makes it a notoriously difficult area to control poaching.
The REP is implemented by the local Community through Authorized Associations of 5 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and the Govt. of Tanzania (Ministry of Natural Resources & Tourism-Wildlife Division, District Councils and Police) and is supported by a non government organization, the PAMS Foundation.
Since its inception in late 2011 the Project has produced and achieved the following overall results from patrols, aerial surveillance and other law enforcement activities:
- the seizure of 2,524 snares, 17 148 illegal timber (pieces), 206 elephant tusks, 848 firearms, 1 556 rounds of ammunition, 6 vehicles and 16 motorcycles
- the arrest of 601 people
- prosecution outcomes have included several 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10-year sentences being given to poachers found guilty in the local courts.
Whereas in 2012 there were up to 42 carcasses recorded per month and the elephant population was rapidly declining, the situation has been brought under control. With continuous and steady law enforcement, surveillance and patrol actions instituted the situation improved rapidly since then.
Since the beginning of 2014 there has been less than 1 elephant carcass found per month and the number of elephants has remained stable. A very significant increase in cases of crop raiding by elephants in the REP village lands over the past 2 years suggests that the population of elephants is recovering.
The REP is a true success story and is exemplary of what a Public Private Partnership with Community, Government and the Private Sector can achieve by working together. The Project has been recognized internationally for its outstanding successes achieved since 2011. The Project Coordinator, Mr. Max Jenes Swai, was awarded the IUCN-International Ranger Federation’s annual Young Conservationist Award, at the World Parks Congress in Sydney Australia, during November 2014. Max is one of the first Africans to achieve this prestigious award for his role in the successes achieved.
The 5 WMAs in far southern Tanzania are not the only example either. Although it is early days yet, the Burunge WMA bordering the Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks is also taking decisive steps to improve anti-poaching successes. JUHIBU, the Burunge Authorized Association recently contracted the PAMS Foundation to assist them and their partners including the International Foundation for Wildlife Management (Foundation IGF), the tourism concessionaires and the relevant Government authorities with beefing up on their readiness against poaching.
A sudden increase in positive results is being experienced from the joint effort and PAMS Foundation trainers have been brought in to conduct two game scout training courses at Burunge thus far. As a very tangible, if not somewhat unusual, measure of the value of the training the participants managed to make three separate arrests during the field based practical exercises of the course itself. What better way to learn is there than to be able to train while doing real life tracking, ambushing, arrests and case preparation?
Joining their colleagues in southern Tanzania, the JUHIBU Authorized Association is taking bold and exemplary steps towards ensuring the effective protection of the wildlife resources which are the lifeblood of the tourism industry on their land, and the natural heritage of their descendants to come.