By Gadiosa Lamtey
In a move meant to support the anti- poaching campaign in Tanzania, Germany has donated 11 vehicles to expand surveillance and security in national parks and game reserves.
The vehicles were handed over to President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday at the State House in Dar es Salaam by Africa Director for Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) Robert Muir on behalf of the German government.
They will be used to expand surveillance and security in Serengeti National Park, Selous and Maswa Game reserves.
The eleven vehicles are part of Euro 20 million (equivalent to 40bn/-) set aside to help Tanzania’s fight against poaching in the next five years.
Five of the vehicles will go to Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to be used in Serengeti National Parks, while six will go to the Wildlife Division, five of which will be used in Selous Game Reserve and one in Maswa Reserve.
Speaking during the hand-over ceremony President Kikwete said while poaching for meat and trophies is a long standing problem in the country, of late killing of elephants for their tusks has reached alarming proportions.
“As you are all aware, the number of elephants in Selous and Ruaha dropped from 74,416 in 2009 to 33,084 in 2013 due to poaching activities … this is alarming,” he said. He said the government has scaled up the anti-poaching campaign, and the results have so far been promising.
The President said through Operesheni Kipepeo and Operesheni Tokomeza and other interventions the government has uncovered criminal networks, arrested 2,085 poachers and their accomplices in the illegal ivory trade network.
“We have confiscated 1,721 weapons and several caches of arms used by poachers. It has been a hard-won success. We need to sustain the gain because the problem remains unsolved,” he stressed.
He said the threat posed by poaching and illegal ivory trade to the world heritage and the country’s economy is real. Tourism is an important sector which contributes 17 percent of Tanzania’s GDP and employs over 300,000 people.
He said the challenge posed by the sheer size of the wildlife area is compounded by the insufficient game and warden staff currently at 1,155 personnel, which is only 24 percent of the actual need.
The low number of staff dictates that, one person patrols about 169 square kilometres compared to the required international standard of 25 square kilometres per person.
He said the government is in the process of employing 949 wildlife management officers and will continue to do so every year until the gap is closed in the next three to four years.
“The donation we have received today is indeed timely. It has come at a time of serious need.
Certainly, the challenge before us is daunting, but we have no other choice. We need to build the capacity of our wildlife division to be able to fight this war and win,” Kikwete said.
He said the anti-poaching campaign cannot be won by Tanzania and affected countries alone.
“This is a global problem that requires a global response.
It requires joint efforts from within and outside the elephant range in the country, and within and across regions,” he stressed.
Africa Director of FZS Robert Muir said the handover of the vehicles symbolises the fruitful partnership between FZS and the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. He said recent collaboration has also included the aerial wildlife census of the Selous Ecosystem in October 2013. The results from the census raised concerns about a rapid decline in elephant numbers, calling for increased protection efforts through ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
“As rhino and elephants poaching numbers reach unprecedented levels we at FZS commit to continue support to Tanapa and the Wildlife Division in order to expand surveillance and security” he said.
Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said the operation Tokomeza II will kickoff anytime from now.He cautioned people who feed their animals in the national parks and game reserves to immediately stop because once the operation Tokomeza II starts it will not spare them.