Posted on 23 May 2018
Between 2007 and 2014, 144,000, (30%) of the African Savannah elephants were poached for their ivory and illegal wildlife trade. East Africa which supports the second largest African elephant population experienced a decline in elephant and rhino population due to poaching.
Between 2007 and 2014, 144,000, (30%) of the African Savannah elephants were poached for their ivory and illegal wildlife trade. East Africa which supports the second largest African elephant population experienced a decline in elephant and rhino population due to poaching. Tanzania, over the last five years, lost over 63 percent of its elephant population from over 90,000 to less than 40,000. In order to address poaching, WWF developed a zero poaching strategy as target to guide the elephant range states to work towards achieving zero poaching. Nonetheless, this was not well received by most wildlife agencies and other agencies that are involved in addressing wildlife crimes. “This is a tall order and impossible to achieve because of the complex nature and heavily funded international criminal syndicate” said one participant after the presentation of WWF Zero poaching strategy in a trans boundary environmental crime workshop organised by UNDP in Arusha in December 2017.
However, Mr Robert Mande, Assistant Director from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) in charge of the national anti-poaching unit and also the head of the National Multi-agency Anti-poaching Task Force and Dr James Wakibara, the Director General,Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) strongly supported the idea and down
played the fears of risking jobs if the target is not attained. ‘We must work towards a target to be able to win this war. This war is not for weak hearted people’ said Mr
Mande. As a result, WWF Wildlife Crime Hub organised a study tour by high level
government officials from East African countries to Nepal which has experienced zero poaching over the last two years to learn how zero poaching is being implemented after losing 144 rhinos between 2002 and 2017.
A six day visit to Nepal by 12 delegates from East Africa including TAWA and MNRT from Tanzania, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) government officials and Rwanda Great Apes Trans boundary programme,accompanied by WWF Kenya, WWF Tanzania and TRAFFIC Tanzania. Anti-poaching in Nepal is wholly undertaken by the army. The chief park warden and the rangers oversee the general park management. Tanzania is currently reviewing the wildlife law and will soon become a para-military force and the three wildlife agencies will be managed under one authority with harmonised terms and conditions for rangers.
However, due to the high level of involvement of some of the army officers in poaching previously and the challenges encountered in dealing with the army, the military have been incorporated in the National Anti-poaching Task Force.
The 8,000 Nepalese Army managing 12 parks on presidential order after high poaching incidences showed high level of discipline, passion and commitment to anti-poaching through regular daily patrols by foot, vehicle, bicycle, motorcycle and elephant rides.
They also use sniffer dogs, tracker dogs, installed camera traps in the entire park and 24/7 monitoring of the screen to detect any illegal activities in the parks. Clear records on man hours and man days used on patrol daily and area covered are kept. According to Colonel Krishna Prasad Sapkota, the head of the Directorate of National Parks and Wildlife Reserves army, ‘the amount of work involved is much more than the normal duty of the military hence de-motivating but the officers are rewarded by sending them to international peace keeping missions and are awarded certificates which are used for promotions’. Having a chance to view and interact with wildlife for free is a motivation especially for those who love nature. Nepal’s Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Man Bahadur Khadka said: ‘We have a fantastic working relationship with the army and it demonstrates the Nepal’s Army dedicated conservation efforts are delivering clear results’.
All tourist facilities were removed from the parks to the outside when poaching was seen to be happening close to the facilities showing lack of support in anti-poaching efforts. This was also meant to reduce competition with the local community’s eco-tourism project. The adjacent local communities are involved in park management and have been allocated a buffer zone between the park and human settlement to manage and derive benefits apart from the 50% from park revenue shared with the communities. Around the famous Chitwan National Park (CNP), which supports over 500 one horned rhinos,over 200 elephants and over 100 cheetahs, WWF supported the local communities to build Home Stays where visitors stay with families and every household derives between USD 250 – 400 per month. Only 10% is deducted for conservation and management purpose. Communities also have a hall and curio shop that brings in extra income apart from elephant ride game viewing into the community forest. The capacity
of the households to maintain quality facilities and food has been build and standards maintained across all home stays.
Over 200 youths are also actively involved in conservation programmes and have developed a passion for conservation. According to Chief of CNP Ram Chandra Kandel “a strong community support has helped to realise zero poaching. This is as a result of direct benefits they receive from tourism”.Local communities disproportionately bear the negative impacts of human – wildlife conflicts in form of crop damage and human deaths and injuries by elephants, rhinos,
buffalos and cheetahs. Strangely, rhinos and peacocks are the most problem animals something that is unheard off in East Africa. Part of the 50% revenue shared from the park is used to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. Strong walls and wire fences have been erected in conflict hot spot areas. Regular meetings are held between park management and the local communities and are involved in decision-making processes.
After the study tour, WWF Tanzania delegation with WWF TCO came up with a five point high level action plan to actualise zero poaching which include:
(a) Sensitise the Minister and the Permanent Secretary MNRT and the
Parliamentary group in charge of natural resources on zero poaching for political
will especially towards increased budgetary allocation to conservation.
(b) Cascade zero poaching strategy to Members of Parliament for their support.
(c) Selous – Mikumi ecosystem to be a model for zero poaching and scale up
systematically to the other eight ecosystems.
(d) Undertake an assessment of the status of implementation of the national anti-
(e) Finalize the guidelines for the Standard Operating Procedures (OPS) for anti-
(f) Hold a workshop to officially launch the National Wildlife and Forest Security
Committee (NWFSC) which is chaired by the Permanent Secretary, MNRT and
to adopt the guidelines for the SOP
(g) Tanzania delegates to present the trip report to the Minister and the Permanent
Secretary, MNRT and share any other challenges confronting WWF work in
Tanzania that requires their intervention.
A collaborative effort by various key wildlife agencies is key to ensuring wildlife security using diverse tools and equipment. However, passion, love and commitment to conservation work with high level of discipline is critical. More importantly, motivation of wildlife protection team cannot be ignored.
Dr Noah Sitati is a Wildlife Species Expert and Interim Ruvuma Landscape coordinator,
WWF Tanzania Country Office