Tanzania elephant National Day awareness week bears fruits through WWF anti-poaching campaign initiativeThis follows long term WWF engagement and working with local communities plus an intensive four days of education and awareness among the community on the importance of conserving the elephant to mark this year’s National Elephant Day. On the eve of the National Elephant Day celebrations at Lusewa Village, which is notorious for poaching, six suspected poachers aged between 25 and 39 years were apprehended through voluntary community informers with two fairly recent elephant tusks weighing 3.8 kgs.
The National Elephant Day with the theme ‘Community Involvement is key in fighting poaching’ was celebrated on 22nd September, 2017 at Lusewa village saw elephant conservation messages passed through diverse communication channels including films shows in schools, songs and dances, poems, essay writing competition, drama, speeches by government officials, NGOs and local leaders. The event was covered by various media houses including television, radio and print media that reached thousands of people. The villagers are working to stop poaching and find a more sustainable way of benefiting from wildlife to nearly 1,520 families in their village. In the past, community have been quite negative about conservation and threatening to pull out of the WMA but have now taken up reporting of illegal wildlife trade activities which has plunged the elephant population in the famous Selous Game Reserve. After the celebrations the poachers surrendered two fairly old pieces of ivory weighing 2.7kg which was reported by the community.
To strengthen anti-poaching efforts, a group of 24 village game scouts had just graduated the same week from the Community-Based Conservation Training Centreat- Likuyu Sekamaganga. The trainees, who included one woman scout endured the three month tough training to finish successfully displayed paramilitary skills acquired during the training with support from WWF. Hellena Venant Mbunda aged 47 years and a mother of six has been a scout for 12 years. Unlike her, the other woman scout could not complete her training because of family issues apart from the scouts profession being considered by the community to be for men. WWF is however working through awareness creation to change this notion and have more women as scouts.
The landscape lost over 63% of the elephant population in the last five years from more than 100,000 in 2009 to a mere 15,000 by 2014. The rhino numbers remain unknown. In February 2017, 24 ivory pieces were seized while in transit from Mozambique and 13 riffles were surrendered in the same area. Illegal firearms are smuggled from Mozambique into Tanzania using barter trade in exchange for food and a den of manufacturer of muzzle guns has been apprehended. While poaching incidences are quite low, the threat is still eminent and integrated approaches are needed to curb the illegal wildlife crime.
The Community-based Conservation Training Centre - Likuyu Sekamaganga was started in 1995, with support from the Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and is helping to bring training close to the community around the greater Selous ecosystem in all aspects that will provide sustainable solutions to the challenges of conservation and livelihoods. It has so far trained 4,482 community members. WWF has been working in the landscape for over 20 years.
"I am determined to secure the elephant population in our WMA for the future generation and also to derive benefits from tourism. The WMA will not survive without elephants since it will not be attractive to tourists anymore and we shall have lost our source of livelihood. This work is men dominated but I want to prove to the community that women can also do it. I want to be a role model and I appeal to women to join me so that we can join forces in conserving our natural resources for the future of our children" (Hellena, a female VGS).