New Tanzania Cabinet Should Address Poaching Urgently
“Alongside H.E. the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, we are gravely concerned that poaching in the country has increased to enormous levels. At the current rate, there may be very few elephants left in this country over a period of the next few years,” said WWF Tanzania Country Director Bell'Aube Houinato.
According to a press release dated 10th January 2014 from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania, elephant census conducted in October and November 2013 at the Selous Game Reserve and its surroundings revealed that the ecosystem has lost an estimated 66 percent of its elephants to poaching in just four years. This game reserve was home to Africa’s second largest elephant population, but today, only an estimated 13,084 roam the Selous from 38,975 in 2009.
A similar situation is ongoing in the Ruaha-Rungwe ecosystem where census conducted in 1990 recorded 11,712 elephants. This number increased to 31,625 in 2009 but has since dropped to an estimated 20,090 currently indicating a decline of 36.5 percent.
According to TRAFFIC’s Global Programme Coordinator on Rhinos and Elephants Tom Milliken, since 2009, Tanzania has made or been implicated in18 large-scale ivory seizures (i.e. those seizures that involved 500 kg or more in a single consignment), which are the hallmark of transnational criminal syndicates. Tanzania made only five of these seizures, whilst 13 other shipments successfully left Tanzania's ports only to later be seized elsewhere. Altogether, nearly 43 tonnes of ivory was seized in these consignments, representing the deaths of some 5,000 elephants.
Central Bank of Tanzania records further indicate that the country received 6.7 million tourists from 2001 to 2012 earning the country TZS 614.38 billion (USD 380.3 million). Tanzania received 945,794 tourists in 2012 alone earning the country TZS 109, 372,608,221 (USD 68 million), breaking all previous records. In 2013, tourism in Tanzania earned more hard currency than gold.
“With these statistics in mind, it is clear that livelihoods of the many communities, that depend on tourism via Tanzania’s various ecosystems, is under serious threat as a result of runaway poaching. We expect the new cabinet to pursue the poaching crisis seriously and with sustained zeal, ensuring that the rights of people and wildlife living within and around the various ecosystems in Tanzania are protected,” said Mr. Houinato.
Due to the gravity of the current poaching situation in Tanzania, WWF and TRAFFIC are consulting with relevant government and non-government partners to come up with innovative approaches that match the poaching crisis. In that regard, and more specifically, both organizations are providing reliable, scientific and objective information to law enforcement agencies in Tanzania, alerting agencies to emerging trade-related threats to wildlife, supporting interagency and international dialogue on issues related to poaching and communicating wildlife trade news both regionally and globally.
In addition to this, WWF is implementing programs aimed at strengthening government policy and institutional capacity. These include the implementation of Community Based Natural Resources Management in wildlife, forestry, and fishery sectors with support from USAID, EU, Norad and DFID. WWF and TRAFFIC stand ready to work with the government of Tanzania and other stakeholders in finding effective, efficient and legal long-term solutions that will lead to the eventual eradication of poaching and illegal trade in ivory.
By John Kabubu