University of Dar es Salaam students launch a rhino conservation awareness campaign
This launch is very timely as WWF is now moving towards engaging the youths in conservation. This launch is reminiscent of some years back in 1990s when WWF had a research support programs with various universities as part of capacity development for upcoming conservationists. This cohort who were youthful by then are now actively involved in conservation in different capacities and with different institutions. With this challenge in mind, it is important for senior conservationists to think about mentorship of upcoming youths with keen interest in conservation.
The launch was also reminiscent of engagement with youths at the university level in rhino conservation. The keenly listening students and ready to learn as well as their well thought through and tough questions during the launch is not only an inspiration but also shows how youths are ready to take up their position to protect wildlife and natural resources in general. The launch also forms a new beginning of WWF engagement with other institutions in conservation issues and especially youths who have always either taken a passive and back seat role in conservation issues. Nicely drawn pictures showing the plight of rhino were displayed in the room with mixed messages including “Iam touched with rhino tears”, Take care of me – you know my value” led by Teddy Raphael let the team to explain the photo exhibitions of bleeding rhinos after poaching for money without considering the future generation. Maria Kambe, second year student composed a moving poem on the impact of humanity on nature. “After killing all the rhinos for monetary gains where are we going to buy rhinos again for the future generation? Maria paused. Frank John and his colleague led the group in singing a song “Tulinde Vifaru” meaning ‘let us protect rhinos’. The climax of the function was the launching of awareness materials, beautiful t-shirts with rhino messages “Iam touched with Rhino tears“ and “Join us in protecting Rhino for the future generation” for resource mobilisation. The cost of the t-shirt ranged between US$ 10 for students and USD 25 for lecturers and non-students and Tsh 1.3 million was raised by students. The funds raised will be used to create awareness using various television channels and radio stations to reach as many people as possible and especially the youth. “This is a welcome move great idea since rhinos are considered sensitive and information is rarely shared”, said Dr Sitati who presided over the launch on behalf of WWF.
Tanzania has the potential to host the biggest rhino population in Africa and the world at large because of an impressive 40% of its land is secured under protected areas”. Selous Game Reserve is a home to the only sub species Bicornis minor not just in Tanzania but in East Africa at large. Currently its population remains unknown but only signs of its presence. WWF is working with Tanzania Research Institute (TAWIRI) and Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) to establish any remaining rhinos. While population recruitment is healthy, predation of calves and poaching stagnates increase in rhino population. WWF Tanzania is also facilitating the review of the national rhino Action plan with financial support from WWF UK and WWF Sweden. With proposed interventions in the revised strategy such as biological management and establishment of a neutral and effective rhino program to coordinate rhino conservation and management as well as rhino being managed as a meta-population, there is still hope for rhino population to recover, said Dr Sitati. According to Dr Flora Magige, Head Department of Zoology and Wildlife Conservation, “this is the first ever active engagement with WWF and we are pleased that we can walk the talk together on rhino conservation and other conservation issues in general. The department is more than keen to join WWF in rhino conservation campaign and work with youths in order for their voice to be heard”.
Dr Noah Sitati, is a Wildlife Species Expert and also an interim Ruvuma Landscape Coordinator with WWF Tanzania