Kondoa — Human encroachment and poaching are denying the government of revenue at Swagaswaga Game Reserve in Kondoa District, Dodoma Region.
Covering about 871 square kilometres between Kondoa and Chemba districts, the international hunting block could have generated lucrative cash in terms of foreign currencies, but it has never received much attention by the parent ministry despite the uniqueness of the area.
It takes only two hours to drive from Dodoma Municipality to the fascinating site well-covered by Miombo woodland.
Birds like lesser Koribustard, ground hornbill, lovebird, francolins, and guinea fowls welcome you with amazing sounds, before you proceed to Kondoa-Irangi painting caves which make the reserve even more unique. Wildlife animals found in the game reserve include jumbos, giraffes, buffaloes, elands, hartebeests, klipspringers, dikdik, warthogs, bushpigs, lions, leopards, hyenas, jackals, honey budges, civets, and zebra.
But despite the endowment, the government is yet to benefit from the block, thanks to human activities and poaching facing the reserve.
“When it was established way back in 1997, the reserve used to receive a good number of foreign professional hunters. But shortly thereafter, most of them stopped visiting it for fear of increased human activities they came across during their hunting missions,” Swagaswaga Game Reserve project manager Patrick Kutondolana said. Increased poaching also led the number of wildlife animals to fall drastically, compelling the government to suspend hunting activities for some years in a bid to overcome the vice.
In 2013, he said, hunting activities resumed after it was proved that wildlife animals had multiplied and the block received one foreign tourist who hunted three jumbos.
But human activities, particularly livestock keeping, continued unabated with some families permanently settling in the reserve.
Over 60 households have been built in the reserve, some well before the game reserve itself was established. “We’ve requested the Natural Resources and Tourism ministry to evict them, but we’ve so far never received any response,” lamented Mr Kutondolana, adding that the project was in financial doldrums, as it could neither pay its workers nor buy fuel for its vehicles.
He added: “Many poachers were invading the reserve in search of elephant tusks. We’ve often found carcsasses of jumbos with their tusks plucked off.”
“I remember the last foreign hunter came here in October. We’ve never received any since,” he narrated.
Mr Kutondolana, however, was optimistic that, with the vibrancy the incumbent government had demonstrated in fulfilling its duties, the situation would change for the better.