By Wolfgang H. Thome
The ‘Elephant Summit’ organized in Arusha by the ICCF, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, yesterday heard from Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Lazaro Nyalandu that a newly formed wildlife management and conservation body, the Tanzania Wildlife Authority, would be taking over a range of responsibilities and functions alongside TANAPA, taking care in particular of game reserves, wildlife management areas, hunting blocks and centralised anti-poaching operations, absorbing and in fact adding to the functions of the former wildlife division in the ministry.
The change was in the making for a while but announcing it at this international conference gave the new measures maximum exposure and much hope is vested in TAWA now to radically alter the ways of the past when poaching was lamented but not effectively combated and when the old organisation regularly suffered of a shortage of manpower, equipment and financial resources.
The last few years saw Tanzania rise to notoriety when commercial scale poaching led to the wholesome slaughter of tens of thousands of elephant, as documented in both reports to parliament as well as backed up by wildlife census figures from the Selous and Ruaha National Park, with the former game reserves elephant population dwindling since the 2006/7 census of an estimated 70.000 elephant to just over 13.000 elephant in late 2013, while Ruaha was estimated to have lost half of its population to poaching gangs.
Conservation organisations and conservationists have broadly welcomed the move though cautioned against too high an expectation during the formative stages of the new body while additional manpower – according to the minister was an immediate addition of over 400 rangers on the cards – and additional equipment, including at least three helicopters, was being imported.
Meanwhile has in neighbouring Kenya the visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Kequiang announced a change of policy in China towards wildlife conservation in Africa and allocated some 10 million US Dollars to wildlife conservation measures in Kenya and on the continent of Africa, a gesture broadly welcomed though with the rider that it was not nearly enough and more work was needed to suppress the domestic demand for ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products from Africa inside China. Today, Sunday are the heads of state of Tanzania but also from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi expected in Nairobi to meet with the Chinese Prime Minister and his delegation as a gesture by the Kenyan government keen to see the entire region tied into the visit and the resulting business, investment and infrastructure opportunities arising from it.