By Wolfgang H. Thome
A new sense of urgency seems to be slowly taking root in Tanzania’s government circles, as news broke yesterday that a new partnership deal has been signed and sealed with the United Nations Development Program, in short UNDP, to establish a new fund for wildlife conservation under a joint initiative.
At the end of the just concluded Elephant Summit in Arusha did the two parties put pen to paper and laid the legal groundwork with an MOU to jointly create the new fund. No figures were immediately available, however.
Tanzania has over the past years seen an unprecedented upswing in commercial scale poaching and lost tens of thousands of elephants since the last major census was carried out in 2006/7 but has given the impression it was lacking the political will and ability to put an end to the poaching tsunami, relying mostly on good words and sunshine speeches but remaining short on action.
Ill-considered plans to build a highway across the main migration routes of the Serengeti, Uranium mining in the Selous combined with plans for a hydro-electric power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous, the withdrawal of the UNESCO WHS application for the Eastern Arc Mountains and plans to build a port right in the center of the Coelacanth marine national park have all over the past years put Tanzania’s past conservation record under a storm cloud, so this latest move is now seen with some element of doubt, if the country’s position is changing from words to action. Conservation circles therefore were divided at the end of the conference as to turning resolutions made into action and while broadly supportive of the proposed measures now adopt a wait and see attitude, giving the government time to live up to its promises or else be exposed, as was the case in the past, of failing to implement policy and get tough on poachers, financiers and middlemen who have built a criminal network over the past years which needs all the state resources to dismantle.