‘No more elephants in decade’ (Tanzania)


BY FRANK AMAN, The Guardian

Date Published
Tanzania is bound to lose all her elephants in 10 years given Africa’s rate of poaching that sees 15 of them being killed every minute by the people in search for their precious tusks, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu has revealed.
Addressing representatives from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) yesterday, the minister said despite the decrease in elephant poaching this year, there was still a need for collective worldwide efforts to overcome the illegal wildlife trade.
 “This ongoing illegal trade will result in the extinction o f this species by 2025,” said Nyalandu at the meeting a meeting that also involved development partners in conservation.
He said that decline in wildlife population especially rhinos and elephants is due to poaching attributed to raising demand for ivory, exacerbated by poverty and inadequate infrastructure in protected areas.
The minister also cited short of tangible wildlife benefits for rural communities responsible for preservation and lack of sophisticated technologies in concealing illegal traffickers as major setbacks in dealing with poaching. 
However, he said despite this challenge a number of achievements has been realized by the ministry in the past three years. 
According to him, the number of the arrested poachers has increased from 1,529 in 2012 to 1,711 last year thanks to tightened security that saw 73,619 patrols in 2012 to 125,124 in last year in which 5,547 pieces and 16,888.36 kilograms of raw ivory and 1,171 pieces and 56.15kg of worked ivory were seized.
He said ivory seizure outside the country believed to originate from Tanzania destined for Hong Kong, China and Malaysia during the period included 1,947 pieces and 5,937.3kgs in which 244 people were arrested in connection with the smuggling.
Speaking about status of conservation in Tanzania, Minister Nyalandu said the country faces poaching crisis where major ecosystems for instance Selous and Mikumi national parks elephant population fell from 38,975 in 2009 to 13,084 last year.  
He said elephants in Serengeti Mara ecosystem has increased from 2,058 in 1986 to 7,535 last year.
Meanwhile, the minister expressed concerns over the increase in charcoal demand at an annual rate of 10 per cent, saying  it is a challenge facing environmental protection and an apparent danger to wild life.
 “Charcoal consumption countrywide account for 1.4 million tons per year while Dar es Salaam alone that uses 40,000 bags per day accounts for about half of the total domestic consumption,” he said.
But presenting their views on how the government could end poaching and illegal wildlife trade, several commentators have said there was a need to provide more awareness to the public.
Francis Kiwanga from Foundation for Civil Society advised the government burn the seized elephant tusks to ashes in the same manner as in the neighbouring Kenya since the sale would encourage poaching.
However, in a quick rejoinder, the minister said that President Jakaya Kikwete has recently said while in London that the seized ivory would not be traded any more but preserved in selected areas. 
He said currently discussions are underway with the British government to make ivory stock evaluation and DNA tests in order to have an appropriate system to keep them.