By Gabby Mgaya
Shortly before independence in 1961, the nation's founder, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, issued a very important statement concerning wildlife conservation.
He said and we quote him albeit briefly: "The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa.
These wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration, but are an integral part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and well being."
He had further written: "In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children's grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance".
Those are three salient points that Mwalimu had made about our rich wildlife heritage ; firstly being a source of wonder and inspiration, secondly being an integral part of our natural resources and thirdly being part of our future livelihood and well being.
One of the initial tasks of the post-independence Tanganyika Government was to gazette game-controlled areas and issue specific instructions as regarded game management. It paid dividends, beautiful dividends.
Tanzania, as the country came to be known later, fast became a popular tourist destination as thousands of tourists from all corners of the world flocked into the country each year to sample our national parks and game reserves that were endowed with such wildlife as elephants, lions, buffalos, rhinos, leopards, giraffes and zebra.
This activity helped a lot in boosting the country's foreign exchange coffers, which was vital in financing the foreign component of our development projects and other important national undertakings that needed foreign money.
In realisation of this economic invigoration potential, the first post-independence government proceeded to lay firm foundations for the rehabilitation of national parks and game reserves scattered in various parts of the country, with the northern part of the country enjoying a lion's share.
A whole ministry and a whole department were immediately formed to oversee this important activity and a 'Tanzanian safari' became a hot cake in the international tourist market.
The charming beauty of our game parks drew unprecedented international attention as both the Tourism Division and Tanzania Tourist Corporation (TTC) made an extra effort to build better infrastructures inside and outside the game parks, in addition to stepping up the information and publicity campaign.
To tourists all over the world, Tanzania offered one of the most exciting packages that included game viewing adventures and a trip to the country's pristine silver-sanded Indian Ocean beaches covering hundreds of miles, not forgetting the beautiful and exciting Zanzibar islands of Unguja and Pemba.
For the mountain climbing enthusiasts, the Roof of Africa that is the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro provided them with a memorable climbing expedition experience in scaling the awe-inspiring 19,340- foot free-standing mountain.
Tanzania is home to the world-famous and perhaps the most hyped about Ngorongoro Crater National Park and the Serengeti National Park that in 1959 moved renowned German nature author, Dr Bernhard Grzimek, to write, direct and shoot a documentary film "Serengeti Shall Never Die" or "Serengeti darf nicht sterben" in German.
There are also the Lake Manyara National Park, internationally renowned for its tree-climbing lions, Tarangire National Park, Mikumi National Park, Ruaha National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Arusha National Park, Katavi National Park and a number of game reserves and sanctuaries.
Tanzania's rich wildlife heritage provided perfect setting in 1962 for 'Hatari' (Danger), an American film that was directed by Howard Hawks and starring popular actor John Wayne. Portraying a group of professional animal catchers in Africa working for zoos, the film included dramatic wildlife chases and the magnificent backdrop scenery of Mount Meru, a dormant volcano.
It only served to publicise Tanzania's rich game heritage even further! The wildlife conservation efforts went on well until poachers, that is greedy people out to make fast riches appeared into the scene, killing animals, especially elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras and leopards for their tusk, horn and skin value.
Yet there is another category of poachers that go for wildlife such as buffaloes, antelopes, deer, dik dik, zebras and wildebeests also for their meat value. The rate at which such poaching activity is conducted in the game-controlled areas is alarming.
The presence of ready markers in the Far East and Asia has provided a catalyst for the increase in the illegal activity. If this trend goes on, we will within a short period of time be left with nothing to show to tourists, both foreign and local and no heritage to show for the future generations.
In response, the government has over the years been fighting poachers, with special units entrusted with the task managing to register a number of arrests, with culprits sent to court to answer related charges.
This has seemingly not been deterrent enough, maybe due to the absence of a stringent legislation to deter would-be offenders. As a result, poachers have continued to wreak havoc, literally decimating animal numbers in the game parks.
The result has been heartbreaking. We are now left with very few elephants, rhinos, zebras, buffaloes, lions, zebras, leopards and hippos. More....