By Adam Ihucha
Hunters in Tanzania are at loggerheads with tour operators over the latter’s intensified plea to the government to ban trophy hunting in the height of escalating poaching.
Trophy hunting is currently a legal trade and the outgoing director of wildlife division; Prof. Alexander Songorwa says the industry raked in nearly $75 million from 2008 to 2011.
Latest data are not yet out, but official sources say the industry estimated to have brought home over $50 million in 2013, up from $20 million the year before.
This is an increase of $30 million contribution to the economy per annum, thanks to new rules, which raised fee for hunting blocs and trophies.
For instance, fee for rifle hunters in 2012 were $7,500 for tusks of 15 to 27 kg, $12,000 for 27-32 kg, and $20,000 for ivory over 32 kg, but in 2013, the prices soared to $8,500, $15,000, and $21,900 respectively.
Potential big game sought includes, but are not limited to: bears, big cats, hippos, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, moose and so forth.
However, Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) says the negative impact of trophy hunting outweighs its return, demanding the business be banned as concrete step to combat poaching.
In apparent reprisal, Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA), now demands tour operators to be taxed heavily for the state to raise funds required to equip anti-poaching squad to be effective.
Lately, TATO Chairman, Willy Chambulo has been arguing that it defeats common sense to continue carrying on trophy hunting in the face of a crisis that is screaming towards the ultimate extinction of Tanzania’s big five animals at the expense of tourism.
Mr. Chambulo argues that for every wildlife killed legally during legitimate hunting seasons in Tanzania, another is shot dead illegally by poachers, amounting to thousands of animals per year.
“And no one can tell the bullet killing our elephant comes from professional hunters or from the poachers. In this situation it difficult to control malpractice,” he explained.
Indeed, official data paints a harsh reality as it shows that the country is losing 30 elephants a day, or nearly 11,000 a year.
Nearly half the country's elephants have been shot, speared or poisoned since 2007, leaving scarcely 60,000 in total.
Going by the present poaching rate, Tanzania's elephants will be extinct within five years.
Tanzania Wildlife Research institute (TAWIRI) latest report shows that the giant Selous game reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasted 38,975 elephants in 2009, now has barely 13,084.
Mr. Chambulo warns that poaching menace is great threat to Tanzania’s billion dollars tourism industry, its related jobs, revenues and the whole value chain, and soon than later, there will be nothing to attract the long haul tourists.
Wildlife tourism in Tanzania continues to grow, with more than 1 million guests visit the country annually, earning the country $1.82 billion, equivalent to nearly 17.6 percent of GDP.
Additionally, tourism provides 400,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians; over one million people earn an income from tourism.
TATO’s Council Member, Sam Diah says that it was high time Tanzania’s government to substitute trophy hunting with photographic undertakings.
“Let’s face it. The state should ban the trophy hunting and switch to the photographic activities in the face of growing poaching which, threatens the survival of our wildlife,” Mr. Diah said recently in Arusha’s elephant talk show.
However, Senior TAWIRI Research officer, Dr. Edward Kohi says that there was no scientific evidence that trophy hunting is a contributing factors for poaching.
TPHA Chairman, Mohsin M. Abdallah proposes an exorbitant park entry, concession and camping fees paid by tour operators so that the government can generate sufficient budget required to equip anti-poaching squad.
“We propose the fixed $250 park entry fee for Serengeti national park, up from the current $60, plus $50 concession fee and $150 mobile camping fee per day,” Mr. Abdallah said in his letter to Tourism Confederation of Tanzania (TCT).
For Kilimanjaro National Park, TPHA proposes $300 Park entry fee up from$70, plus $100 Camping fee, whereas Tarangire and Manyara National Parks fee are proposed to hit $170, up from $45 plus $30 Concession fee and $100 mobile camping fee.
The TPHA proposal shows that Arusha National Park entry fee should go up to $200 from $45 in additional to $30 and $50 concession and camping fees.
For Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, TPHA wants fee to rise to $400 in addition to $100 concession fee and $150 Mobile camping fee.
Also TPHA demands Photographic safari guide license fee to pay $1,000 per annum for Tanzanian Citizen, while for foreigners should cough up to $3,000.
Mr. Abdallah believes that under staffing, poorly paid, ill-equipped and demoralized rangers in the Wildlife Management Area’s (WMAs), Open areas, game reserves and national parks are easily bought with bribes.
“Scarcity of funds in the budget for procurement of new vehicles and repairs of vehicles, high-tech equipment for the anti-poaching squads in the wildlife areas is also the factor” he noted
Other factors include lack of education on conservation in local schools as well as in the communities around the wildlife areas.
“All these need money and TPHA proposes higher park fees, concession and introduction of a wildlife levy for the state to raise funds for wildlife protection,” Mr. Abdallah writes.
A law lecturer at Tumaini Makumira University, Elifuraha Laltaika, says if the community in and around wildlife-protected areas significantly benefit from the resources, they will fight poaching at a cheaper and more sustainable manner.