By Peter Temba
THE population of buffaloes in the northern and western areas of the Serengeti National Park has dropped by 80 per cent due to poaching, the Tanzania National Park (TANAPA) Outreach Programme Manager, Mr Ahmed Mbugi, reveals. According to him, buffaloes have declined from 70,000 to 40,000 while the elephant population has decreased from 2,500 to 500 and that of rhino has dropped from 1,000 to less than 20 animals.
"The decline in population of buffaloes, elephants and rhinos is due to intensive poaching perpetrated by local communities for subsistence and commercial purposes," Mr Mbugi noted.
The programme manager revealed that law enforcement alone was not sufficient to secure park resources but effective option was to involve stakeholders rather than fence and fine. Mr Mbugi said that to curb poaching, the Community Conservation Services concept was hatched during a scientific conference held in Seronera in 1985 which focused on involvement of communities living adjacent to national parks from village to the district levels.
He said the initiative started in 1988 as a pilot project under the 'Neighbours as Partners,' supported by the African Wildlife Foundation, adding that the area involved Ololosokwan, Soitsambu and Oloipiri villages located on the eastern borders of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro District.
Mr Mbugi said the programme objectives include to improve relationship between individual parks and the local communities as well as to ensure that the interests of TANAPA were represented at all levels. The programme was also intended to facilitate information dissemination to villagers living adjacent to the national parks and finally facilitate the planned benefit sharing to targeted communities, he said.
According to the manager, from 2003/2004 to 2012/2013, TANAPA has disbursed 5,411,737,134/- to execute community projects and has also managed to reduce park people conflicts. The programme has also promoted environmental conservation and to a small extent facilitated income generating activities.