About 25,000 elephants were killed in the Selous Game Reserve between 2009 and 2013 representing a potential revenue loss of $40,190,600,000 in the in long term tourism profits.
An elephant can contribute $22,966 to tourism annually and because elephants live multiple decades the revenue that each one can generate in its lifespan is $1,607,624.83.
Selous Safari Company Manager Emily Mkwizu stated this in the Selous Game Reserve (SGR) during a media tour organized by the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam mid week.
Mkwizu said a drastic decline in Tanzania’s elephant population is likely to have a significant economic impact.
Tourism generates almost a quarter of the country’s foreign economy. In 2013 the total contribution of travel and tourism to Gross Domestic Product was about $4.05 billion, equivalent to 12 per cent of GDP.
Also a single dead elephant’s tusks are estimated to have a raw value of $21,000 based on traffic estimate that the elephant carries an average of five kilogrammes of ivory per tusk.That makes a living elephant in financial terms as valuable as 76 dead elephants.
The potential revenue lost from poaching in Tanzania is estimated to be a lot more than one squandered by public figures in the recent Independent Power Limited (IPTL) scam.
The Selous Safari Company says Tanzania could become a top tourist destination except for its inefficient management of the sector.
The company cited unfilled public private partnership in planning and imposition of penalties for environment destruction and reducing taxation on operators, adding that the country can have a thriving eco-tourism industry to rival destinations like Bali, Indonesia, and Costa Rica.
They mentioned excessive taxes on operators, limited tourism infrastructure, destruction of natural resources, poaching and dynamite fishing as factors limiting the growth of the tourism sector.
Others are incoherent policies and regulations, insufficient marketing and lack of branding internationally as well as skills gap and restrictive labour laws.
For his part, Gerald Bigurube from Frankfruit Zoological Society recommended that infrastructure to SGR should be improved to attract more tourists.
He said the community surrounding SGR needs to be empowered so that they do not get attracted to illegal activities in the Selous.
Private sector representation on the Tanzania Tourism Board should go up to 50 per cent, he said, as well as reduction of skills development levy to allow for increased in-house training for staff, allowing tourism services to remain VAT exempted.
Other recommendations were to declare poaching, dynamite fishing, encroachment on national parks/water sources as national security threats.
Others are to utilize public private partnership to review and revise policies, act and regulations to streamline and increase efficiency of taxes, licenses, fees and permits.
Last year November a UK Based non-governmental organization the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), released a report saying when president Jinping of China and his entourage visited Tanzania in March 2013, Chinese diplomatic and military staff bought illegal ivory.
It was reported that officials travelling to Tanzania with Chinese President Xi Jinping went on a buying spree for illegal ivory.
Tanzania rejected the report as ‘stupid nonsense’ and China said the allegations were ‘groundless,’ while conservationists said demand for ivory in China is fuelling poaching.
In recent years, poaching has increased across sub-Sahara Africa, with criminal gangs slaughtering elephants for ivory.
Tanzania is the largest source of poached ivory in the world, according to an EIA report, citing a trader in Tanzania’s main port city, Dar es Salaam, named as Suleiman Mochiwa, who met undercover investigators.
He said that when the Chinese government and business delegation arrived, ivory prices in the local market doubled to $700 (£438) per kilo during the visit.
However, the Tanzania government strongly refuted the allegations with spokesmen, Assah Mwambene, saying the EIA was trying to “frustrate” efforts to halt the ivory trade.
“Everybody knows we have been at the forefront of fighting this illegal trade,” he said.
The director of China’s endangered species import and export management office also dismissed the claims: “Allegations without evidence are not believable,” Meng Xianlin said.
The ivory trade was banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). Both China and Tanzania are signatories.
Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Bernard Membe also refuted the allegations telling the November House that the ivory report was false.
Membe said the allegations were meant to tarnish the country’s good image and strain the otherwise flourishing relations the country enjoys with China.
Minister Membe was prompted to make the statement when responding to a question raised by Dr Hamisi Kingwangala (CCM), a Member of Parliament for Nzega constituency, who wanted to know the government’s stand over the allegations.
He said the two countries actively participated in the recent International Wildlife Conference where among other things they both signed an accord to stop ivory trade as stipulated in United Nations conventions.
Membe discredited the authenticity of the report, saying the people interviewed were just found on the streets and do not have any valid information on the matter.
“Those spreading the false information are just out to cause diplomatic rows,” the minister said.
Speaking ahead of the Regional Summit to Stop Wildlife Crime and Advance Wildlife Conservation themed ‘A call to Action’ last year, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu described the reports as ‘a serious attempt to sabotage the ongoing efforts to combat poaching and illegal ivory trade.’
The EIA report, ‘Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephant,’ claims that Chinese diplomats and military personnel colluded with Tanzanian officials and Chinese crime syndicates to send the illegal ivory to China.