THE international community has complimented Tanzania for her anti-poaching drive after going for four months without a single reported killing of an elephant in the Selous Game Reserve, the largest in Africa.
The Selous was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature.
The reserve covers a total area of 54,600 sq km (21,100 sq miles) and has additional buffer zones. Speaking recently during a joint Selous expedition, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, expressed satisfaction with the ongoing coordinated efforts in combating wildlife poaching and trade.
He noted that application of sophisticated preventive measures in addition to commitment among game rangers has helped to improve the situation dramatically. “Control over poaching is a commendable achievement.
Statistics indicate that poaching reached alarming levels in 2013 such that 13,084 elephants were killed within twelve months. Purchase of surveillance helicopter and hire of game rangers made a big difference,” Mr Nyalandu said.
Results from a wildlife census conducted in October and November, 2013, show a dramatic decline in elephants in the area. Wildlife surveys taken in the Selous in 1976 indicated that some 109,419 elephants inhabited the area.
The reserve has suffered such a heavy elephant poaching for ivory, that in the last four years alone, the Selous has lost 67 per cent of its elephants. It’s one of Tanzania’s, if not Africa’s, most brutal killing fields.
Currently, the population of elephants in the area is about 80,000. With regard to the will by the national leadership, the minister said the noticeable progress against wildlife poaching is a result of huge support from President Jakaya Kikwete who has invited the international community to help in stopping the menace.
The Selous joint excursion was organized by the Embassy of China in Dar es Salaam, whereby the Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr Lu Youqing said protection of the diversity of the wildlife the country is endowed with was a noble course that should be supported by different nations.
On behalf of the people and the government of China, the ambassador pledged continued support to the Tanzanian wildlife saying that lessons could also be drawn from China.
Also, the chairman to the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), Dr Kaush Arha, expressed delight for the intensified protection of the wildlife but cautioned that the war was far from over.
“Tanzania is recognized for its commitment to democracy, security and freedom even to her neighbours.
The country is endowed with tremendous natural heritage. We need to work together to stop poaching. Survival of the wildlife is a matter of concern for generations to come,” Dr Arha insisted.
The ICCF works with the leadership of the bipartisan US Congressional International Conservation Caucus (ICC) to educate policymakers on issues that increase the effectiveness of government support for international conservation projects.
In the recent past, the government officially established the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), an independent organ which will not only help increase revenues through Tanzania’s national parks, forests and game reserves but also improve significantly wildlife conservation techniques.
It was announced that in the 2014/15 financial year an additional 500 game rangers would be hired to bring to 930 the number of rangers on the ground.
These will be deployed to cover the designated wildlife habitat of 112,000 square kilometres.