The US$14 million going to the Promoting Tanzania’s Environment, Conservation, and Tourism (PROTECT) project has targeted key wildlife protected areas in northern Tanzania, focusing on Wildlife Management Area (WMA) based programs near Tarangire National Park, a famous tourist wildlife park in northern Tanzania’s tourist circuit.
The five-year PROTECT project was launched this week by the US Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Childress, at Randilen Village near the Tarangire National Park.
Reports from the American Embassy in the Tanzanian capital city of Dar es Salaam said the PROTECT project aims to improve capacity for conservation and to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking throughout Tanzania. It will strengthen policies and institutions to effectively manage wildlife resources, enhance the effectiveness of the law enforcement sector, and to arrest and prosecute poachers and wildlife traffickers, and encourage cooperation between civil society and the government.
Ambassador Childress noted during the launching of the PROTECT project that a key target for implementation has been addressed to the immediate poaching crisis in the short term, while laying the groundwork for long-term success in the fight against wildlife trafficking and the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity overall.
PROTECT will also provide support to WMAs by enhancing local expertise and improving the ability of communities to manage their resources. In addition, small grants totaling US$2.75 million will be disbursed over the five years of the project. These grants will promote promising or innovative solutions for improved wildlife management,strengthen key partners in their ability to carry out their conservation mandates, and provide incentives for private investment in wildlife conservation.
In addition to PROTECT, Ambassador Childress also announced the upcoming “Endangered Ecosystems Northern Tanzania Project,” which will officially take off later this year.
At the conclusion of the event, Ambassador Childress also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Tanzania which is aimed to establish future projects designed to support Tanzania’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.
The PROTECT project has come at a right time when human and wildlife conflicts in various wildlife protected areas of Tanzania are posing a threat to a smooth growth in tourism, the mostly wildlife dependent sector.
Local communities neighboring Tanzania’s northern wildlife park of Tarangire last year killed six lions which strayed into their village community, an incident which wildlife conservationists said was caused by poor management of wildlife parks in relation to local communities through sustainable utilization of wildlife resources in a collaborative approach. Tarangire National Park is among key tourist wildlife parks in Tanzania, but harboring hostility between the local communities and wildlife conservationists within the park.
The benefits of wildlife to the Tanzania’s economy and the welfare of the local communities has remained a de facto barrier. The government of Tanzania has failed to spell out the direct benefits of tourism and conservation to local communities that neighbor the national parks, other than through politics and forceful mechanisms in pushing the protection of wild animals. Tourist income ends up in the pockets of foreign companies and rich tourist franchise entities, while local communities who are the major stakeholders in conservation, remain languishing in abject poverty, a situation driving them to hate, then kill the wild animals, conservationists said.
Often, local communities do not know how much money from wildlife is due to them or how much the operators are paying to the government. Tourism ventures on community areas under WMA have been taxed at a high rate of roughly 40 percent of all revenue through regulations that were introduced in 2007 by the government of Tanzania. Tourist stakeholders in the northern tourist city of Arusha have so far blamed the Tanzanian government over rampant corruption, nepotism, politics, and poor political management of wildlife parks, a situation which led to a growing human and wildlife conflict, then poaching of wild animals.
Early this year, Mr. Childress and German Ambassador to Tanzania, Egon Kochanke, donated on behalf of the American and German governments, the equipment for the anti-poaching and wildlife conservation program worth US$40 million for the coming 4 years. German anti-poaching and wildlife conservation program in Tanzania is worth US$51 million (2012 to 2016), including US$21 million for the Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s biggest wildlife conserved area.
Mr. Kochanke said, “The current poaching crisis threatens not only the survival of elephants and other wildlife in the area, but also the great potential of the Selous Game Reserve for economic development in the country as a whole, and for the districts adjacent to the reserve in particular.”
Poaching is an increasingly serious threat to wildlife in Tanzania, in particular the poaching of elephants for ivory. Controlling this problem has been proved difficult due to a number of factors including the sheer size of national parks and lack of clear boundaries, as well as limited manpower and equipment to monitor and manage activities in within wildlife conserved areas.
An aerial wildlife census in 2013 funded by Germany determined elephant numbers had declined from over 39,000 in 2009 to just over 13,000 in 2013. Between 2010 and 2013, some 17,797 kilograms of illegally exported Tanzanian ivory (4,692 elephant tusks) was seized at overseas ports.
Solutions to the poaching of Tanzania’s wild elephant population are challenging and complex, but the US and German governments are committed to cooperating with the government of Tanzania, the private sector, and other domestic and international partners to preserve this natural and globally important treasure.