New initiative aims to fight urban encroachment, poaching in country traditionally known for vast wilderness areas
The Tanzanian government has embarked on a $14.5-million plan to open up “wildlife corridors” across the country with a view to curbing urban encroachment.
Last week, Lazaro Nyalandu, Tanzanian minister for natural resources and tourism, unveiled the project – dubbed the “Protect” initiative – at the Tarangire-Manyara national park, one of Tanzania’s 16 national parks.
“We must ensure that these wildlife corridors remain intact in coming centuries,” Nyalandu said at the unveiling ceremony.
“If we let the current trend of mushrooming cities continue, our next generation might not see the wildlife we have today,” he added.
According to the minister, the government plans to conduct additional research with a view to finding ways of dealing with threats to the country’s abundant wildlife.
The five-year project, which is being financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, will be carried out by the U.S.-based IRG/Engility group.
The project aims to enhance Tanzania’s conservation capacity, strengthen the country’s wildlife management institutions and enhance the effectiveness of local law enforcement.
According to U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Mark Childress, who attended the unveiling ceremony, the project is also aimed at resolving Tanzania’s ongoing poaching crisis, which in recent years has seen the rapid depletion of the country’s elephant population.
“The program is aimed at laying the groundwork for long-term success in the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity and the fight against wildlife trafficking,” Childress asserted.
The ambassador went on to call for stepped-up law enforcement and the empowerment of local communities surrounding national parks and conservation areas.
The “Protect” scheme comes only a few months after the government launched its own anti-poaching campaign.
“These moves [represent] the government’s efforts to combat the killing of elephants, rhinos and other big game,” said Nyalandu.
According to recent reports by the Arusha-based Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, some 10,000 elephants have disappeared in recent years in Tanzania’s Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem.
Institute director-general Simon Mduma said the number of elephants in the ecosystem has fallen from some 20,000 in 2009 to only 8,272 last year – without explanation from the relevant authorities.
“Usually, when such a large wildlife loss is seen, a comparable number of carcasses are also found,” said Mduma. “But that was not the case with the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem.”
In exclusive statements to Anadolu Agency, Nyalandu called on the international community to ban trade in ivory and rhino products with a view to countering poaching of the endangered animals.
"Without ending international trade in these products, the war against poaching will be futile," he said, adding that an estimated 10,000 Tanzanian elephants are killed each year by illegal poachers.
He went on to cite a handful of East Asian countries – including China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and the Koreas – as the leading markets for animal trophies.
"Tanzania and other African countries must put international pressure on the leading markets for rhino horns and elephant tusks,” asserted the minister.