By Codrin Arsene
The Citizen (Tanzanian newspaper) ran a story on giraffe poaching today. For those who don’t know, the giraffe is Tanzania’s national symbol /emblem and, as such, it is protected by law. Though an exception decree can be granted by the president, for the most part, killing giraffes can result in jail time. The journalists cite two sets of censuses (albeit one that is somewhat outdates) to assess the giraffe numbers in the country.
In 2002 there were 6712 giraffes in Selous National Game Reserve (the largest animal reserve in Africa) while in 2006 the numbers shrank to 3163. On the other hand, in 2006, in Serengheti (probably the most famous reservation in Africa) there were 5246 giraffes while in 2010 the numbers rose to 12,078.
Now, the numbers for Serengheti can be very misleading. As some of you might know, Serengheti is next to Massai Mara (Kenya’s national park) and the two reservations form a trans-frontier game reserve park. In brief, animals are allowed to move freely from one country to another, and indeed, every year, there is a 2000 mile journey that millions of animals undertake to avoid the dry season. So the fact that the numbers are up in Serengheti might just be the result of the annual migration, not that the giraffe population has been more protected in the north of the country.
Of giraffe poaching – notes from ethnographic trips
Incidentally, I know quite a bit about giraffe poaching. Two years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Arusha (Tanzania’s tourist capital, located close to Serengheti) wrapping up my research on Chinese entrepreneurs in the northern part of Tanzania. One of the close friends of my host was an Indian game restaurant/guesthouse owner who also had his own estate located next to Serengheti. I probably met him 5 or 6 times during my stay in Arusha and every time we had a beer together he had two topics he constantly wanted to talk about: giraffes and me marrying his daughter. More....