ONE of Africa’s largest protected wildlife sanctuaries, the Selous Game Reserve, has been included in the list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage in Danger owing to widespread poaching which is decimating wildlife population in the reserve.
The decision was reached in Doha, Qatar, during the 38th World Heritage Committee meeting. The Committee called on the international community, including ivory transit and destination countries, to support Tanzania in the fight against the criminal activity.
This comes just a day after the remains of East Africa’s great ports which are found in Tanzania namely Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara were removed from the list of World Heritage in Danger on Wednesday.
The sites were in the year 2004 put on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of deterioration and decay leading to the collapse of the historical and archaeological structures for which the property was inscribed.
Covering 50,000 square kilometres, the Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Africa. The sanctuary is renowned for its populations of elephant, black rhinoceros, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus and crocodile, amongst many other species.
It also has an exceptionally high variety of habitats including Miombo woodlands, open grasslands, revering forests and swamps, making it a valuable laboratory for on-going ecological and biological processes.
However, rampant poaching has caused a dramatic decline in the wildlife populations, especially elephants and rhino, whose numbers have dropped by almost 90 per cent since 1982, when the sanctuary was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The 38th session of the World Heritage Committee began on June 15 and will continue through to June 25, under the Chair of Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism yesterday said the population of elephants in the Selous Game Reserve has dwindled drastically from 70,000 in the year 2006 to 13,084 jumbos last year.
“The decreasing number of elephants in the reserve forced the government to take deliberate efforts to tackle the vice by boosting manpower and material support to fight poachers,” the statement said.
The ministry was, however, optimistic that by putting the game reserve on the danger list, the World Heritage Committee would alert the international community to support Tanzania’s efforts to curb poaching of elephants and rhinos.
“Through the decision, the committee has given Tanzania one year to cooperate with the international community to curb poaching in the Selous Game Reserve so that it can be removed from the list.
“Germany has reacted swiftly by pledging one million Euros to support us while Portugal, Algeria, Senegal, Lebanon and Colombia have joined the former to support Tanzania’s bid to stop poaching,” reads part of the statement by the ministry.
Selous Game Reserve is among seven UNESCO’s World Heritage cites in Tanzania. Others are Kondoa Rock Art Sites, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, Stone Town of Zanzibar as well as Kilimanjaro National Park and Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area ?.
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