By Rose Athumani
President Jakaya Kikwete has said that the area that is under conservation is quite vast and that lack of adequate manpower was the major challenge in antipoaching efforts in the country.
President Kikwete made the remarks on Tuesday when receiving 11 Landrovers from the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) of Germany. The motor vehicles will be used in fighting poaching in the country. He said that about 40 per cent of the country's territory has been set aside for wildlife and forest conservation.
The area covers approximately 159, 817.02 Sq km out of the total of 945,000 sq km of land. The president added that due to lack of manpower in conservation, one person protects an area spanning 168 square kilometres, which is quite wide compared to the International standards of one person to 25 square kilometres. "The size of the area under conservation is a challenge. We need more people to do this job.
The current workforce covers only 24 per cent of the actual needs," he said, noting that the government has taken steps to employ more personnel. President Kikwete said the government's goal is to have all the 4,000 workers needed on the ground by 2016.
He stressed that the government will need all the support in providing training and equipment for them. He said tourism is an important sector for the country's economy. It contributes 17 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs more than 300,000 workers.
The president added that poaching in the country has reached dangerous proportions, noting that the elephant population has plummeted to 13,084 from around 38,000 in 2009. "This is alarming... .we're scaling up the anti-poaching campaign.
We have had several campaigns that have also been fruitful, such as kipepeo and Tokomeza. More than 2,000 suspected poachers have been arrested and their weapons impounded," he said. He added that the campaigns need to be sustained since the problem remains unsolved.
President Kikwete said the government will intensify the fight against poaching; stressing that the country is determined to stay the course. He stressed that losing the anti-poaching war is not an option.
The African Director of FZS, Mr Robert Muir, said that the handover of the 11 motor vehicles symbolises the fruitful partnership between Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Mr Muir said the donation is a step forward in tackling anti-poaching challenges that afflict the country. He called upon other international communities to support the country's new National Wildlife Strategy, which contains a clear and comprehensive way forward.
"Only if we join forces can we bring an end to poaching. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose. The future generation will thank us for this," he explained. The Germany Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Hans Koeppel, said that anti-poaching efforts concern everyone, adding that with joint efforts, poachers will be pushedback and the conservation area will be secured. The Head of European Union delegation to Tanzania, Mr Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi, said that the donation will support wildlife conservation in the country.
He added that the EU supports the country's new strategy which shows clear and strong commitment to fight poaching in the country. "This is a good strategy and the European Union is willing to support it," he explained.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism,Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, said that the five Landrovers will be used in Serengeti, five Land Cruisers will be used in Selous Game Reserve and one for Maswa Game reserve.
Minister Nyalandu alerted pastoralists in government controlled areas to ensure the cattle do not graze in conserved areas, adding that once operation 'Tokomeza Operations' begins, the animals and their keepers will not be spared. The Tanzania National Parks Director General, Mr Allan Kijazi, welcomed the donation, noting that it will strengthen government efforts in the anti-poaching drive.