Posted on 25 October 2019
In the last decade, human elephant conflict has been rising. A trend that most likely will intensify and threaten wildlife resources and conservation initiatives. Indeed, data from the Tunduru District indicate that 1,500 hectares of farmland have been destroyed by elephants this year alone.
"No single approach works in all situation nor can we apply all approaches in reducing HEC. Hence, we need to derive a HEC Mitigation Strategy that works according to our context. If properly implemented, the Strategy can reduce conflicts and enhance coexistence," said Prof. Noah Sitati, WWF Wildlife Species Expert.
He called for a concerted effort among stakeholders to focus on awareness rising, capacity building and learning visits (study tour) to resolve HEC challenges and enhance wildlife conservation.
Speaking at Ruvuma Landscape (RLS) HEC Strategy development meeting Keneth Sanga, Southern Zone Anti-Poaching Commander said one aspect that intensifies HEC is the blockage of wildlife corridors.
“For the past five years we have witnessed more hectares of various crops are being destroyed by elephants. Even human attacks are on the rise last year we had 5 elephant caused deaths in Ruvuma region. And this year 3 people have been reported killed by elephants and the year is yet to end,” Sanga remarked while presenting TAWAs highlights.
The Commander said plans are afoot to address destructive animals but there is no strategy in place to mitigate HEC.
During the HEC Mitigation Strategy Meeting, District Game Officers (DGOs) noted that the burden of HEC mitigation cannot be shouldered by the government alone thus the need to pull resources together.
‘’In Namtumbo District between 2017-2019, 711.75 hectares of various crops were destroyed by elephants and 75 crop raiding incidents have been reported according to the Mr. Shingela Jilala , DGO.
“The communities are using chill fence as mitigation measure. But we still have several elephant groups near community land. With fewer resources we not be in the best position to address these rising conflicts hence collective action is paramount,” he added.
Designed to provide a better understanding conflicts and explore different approaches to manage HEC, the meeting was attended by Officials from TAWA, Ruvuma and Lindi Region Secretariat along with DGO’s from Tunduru, Namtumbo, Liwale and Rufiji.
In the meeting participants reviewed the scale of conflict by revisiting WWF and district data. Followed by deliberations on mitigation measures through successful case studies and illustrate best practices.
The following excerpts summarize the findings of HEC meeting:
Human-Elephants Conflict is one of the most complex and urgent challenges for wildlife conservation in Southern regions of Tanzania. The conflicts pose direct threat to wildlife and communities’ livelihoods, resulting in retaliation against the species they blame for this.
The growing overlap of elephants and small-scale farms (shambas) is visible in all districts. This goes together with violation of Land Use Plans (LUP) and regulation and bylaw encroachment of wildlife corridors.
The meeting also noted that the growing crop damage and increasing human deaths from elephant attacks has caused and can cause retaliatory attacks. And, although most communities still support wildlife conservation, they are concerned about their wellbeing and want measures in place. Losses by communities, lack of compensation for these losses, and lack of community involvement in wildlife conservation are major sources of local concerns.
HEC mitigation strategies are poorly developed due to limited capacity and resources at Local Government Institutions.
The meeting concluded that Tanzania’s elephant conservation efforts in the last couple of years have paid off. Therefore, to sustain the results the growing HEC needs to be tackled locally rather than rely on government compensation, and through development and implementation of HEC Mitigation Strategy.