Tanzania: Clerics Declare Readiness to Support Anti-Poaching Drive


By Bilham Kimati, Tanzania Daily News

Date Published
FOR the first time in history, the Ministry of Natural resources and Tourism declared religious leaders as important stakeholders in protection of the wildlife and conservation of the environment at large.

During a recent International Conference under the theme “Combat Wildlife Trafficking and Illicit Trade: Global Coordination to Curb Demand for Illegal Wildlife Products” held in Dar es Salaam, between May 9 and 10, 2014, the clerics emphatically declared their readiness and ability to fight poaching and related wildlife crimes.

The event brought together stakeholders from across the continents. These include representatives from the European Union (EU), UNDP, World Bank (WB), the African Development Bank (ADB), Germany, USA, France, Norway and several diplomats accredited to Tanzania.

Invited representatives from two major religious denominations, Muslims and Christians wanted the government to incorporate them in national efforts to protect the wildlife and conserve the environment. Elephants and rhinos are the most targeted species.

The Chief Facilitator to the Conference, Dr Kaush Arha from International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) Organizers of the meeting, commended Tanzania for being exemplary in fostering religious harmony and cooperation, the achievement perhaps not easily seen in other parts of the world.

The Secretary General, Muslim Council of Tanzania, Mr Suleiman Lolila proposed a strategic awareness education campaign focusing on local communities about conservation of the environment.

“Even children in religious classes (Madrasa) and Sunday schools should be taught about the importance of protecting the environment.

The knowledge and awareness must be imparted to the children and that remains with them as they grow older,” says Lolila. Rev. Father Raymond Saba says protection of the environment was Biblical and pastoral obligation.

He warned that the consequences of environmental degradation could not be reversed and protection of the environment was a humankind concern. “Human beings can always pardon each other but nature never forgives.

Once provoked, nature kicks back and the consequences might be devastating. Therefore the government should seek ways to involve spiritual leaders and the community at large in the whole attempt to stop poaching and destruction of the environment,” says Fr Saba.

Rev John Sweya from the African Inland Church (AIC) quoted from the book of Deuteronomy 22:6 to prove his argument that protection of the wildlife was ordered by God the Creator.

The scriptures from Deuteronomy 22:6 read: “If you come on a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, with the mother sitting on the nestlings (chicks) or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young.

Let the mother go, taking only the young for yourself, in order that it may go well with you and you may live long”.

The inspiring ‘birds’ survival support’ analogy arose enthusiasm among the participants who unanimously agreed that just as a bird could not fly with a broken wing, the government should work closely with faith leaders to help elevate awareness among worshippers about protection of the wildlife and conservation of the environment.

The minister for Natural resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu responded unreservedly to the appeal by the clerics saying that cooperation with religious leaders was of great importance and should have been adopted long time ago. “Truly I never thought of this before.

Clerics are very important partners in wildlife conservation and protection of the environment. We (government) must work very closely with religious leaders.

They can spread the powerful message about anti-poaching and protection of the environment,” Nyalandu explains. Again Dr Reginald Mengi called for temporary suspension of sports hunting pending stabilization of the situation. The practice complicates efforts to curb poaching.

He offered his media outlets (TV, Radio and Newspapers) to spearhead the fight against poaching.

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Job Ndugai spoke strongly against transportation of live animals and said, “The ugly trade must stop,” with immediate effect.

Mr Gerald Bigurube, a representative from Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Germany Organization always at the heart of wildlife protection in Tanzania, says poverty within surrounding local communities needs to be addressed to pave way for effective conservation of the wildlife.

Prof Markus Borner from Glasgow University (UK) commended President Jakaya Kikwete for his commitment to stop poaching, insisting that the clear determination at the highest level should trickle down to the local communities.

Prof Markus Borner who for 36 years has been closely affiliated to the fairing of Tanzania wildlife said a firm commitment in the fight by the government would persuade donor countries and development partners to extend support to Tanzania.

A renown conservationist and local businessman Dr Reginald Mengi advised on true engagement of business companies in conservation of the environment and protection of the wildlife as giving money itself was not enough.

More than 24 million trees have been grown in Kilimanjaro under his support. The request was unreservedly received by Mr Yusef Karimjee, Owner, Toyota Tanzania who requested for proper coordination for effective support to the government to help advance wildlife conservation and intensify war against wildlife crime and illicit trade in ivory.

The former US Senator Robert W. Kasten -JR, currently working with ICCF says, the best way to involve local communities in the vicinity of National Parks and Conservation Areas in protection of the wildlife and conservation of the environment was to share the earnings from the sector.

“The entire country has to come together and agree that revenue derived from tourism and other sectors is shared equally by all the people. The villagers are the most important caretakers,” Kasten observed.

Indiscriminate killing of elephants and rhinos pushed the government of Tanzanian through its ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to organize such an important meeting to deliberate on ways to combat poaching.

It was at this meeting minister Nyalandu announced the establishment of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA). The authority is expected not only to increase revenues from Tanzania’s National Parks and Game Reserves but also intensify conservation activities and well coordination of wildlife protection.

The size of territory set aside for wildlife conservation is 36 per cent of Tanzania land. The total area under conservation is 159,878.02 square kilometres on which Game Reserves cover 101,313 sq km and Game Controlled Area covering 58,565.02 sq km.

Statistics indicate that poaching reached the alarming level such that the elephant population in the famous Selous Game Reserve, the largest in the world and Ruaha National Park dropped from 74,416 in 2009 to 33,084 in 2013 as a result of poaching activities.