Tanzania Unites to Combat Elephant Poaching- National Elephant Day - 2013
Every 15 minutes an African elephant is slaughtered in the wild.
On September 22nd, the Government of Tanzania, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, University of Dar es Salaam and other partners convened the first ever "National Elephant Day" to raise awareness and discuss the serious impact that elephant poaching is having on Tanzania's biodiversity, social and ecological health, tourism industry and last but not least, the survival of the beloved species itself.
Discussants from various interest groups came up with a number of recommendations which aimed at taking concrete measures to halt the killing of elephants. The recommendations were mainly related to governance, conservation, security, socio-economic and tourism. Generally participants felt there was need for joint efforts of all interested parties including communities at village levels to increase efforts in conservation and safeguarding wildlife.
Poaching of the African Forest Elephant is a serious issue in Southern Tanzania as well as other districts where elephants are free to stray outside of national park surveillance. As a result, the population of this magnificent creature (arguably the most significant mammal to Tanzania’s ecosystem and tourism industry) has decreased by two thirds since the 1950s. A study conducted by Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) revealed that the number of elephants in two wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania indicated a sharp fall by more than 40 percent in just three years, as poachers increasingly killed the animals for their tusks. The study was conducted in the Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park and revealed elephant numbers had plunged to 38,975 in 2009 from 70,406 in 2006 (TAWIRI 2010). Given the estimated total elephant population in Tanzania is between 110,000 and 140,000; it was feared that with such a large drop in numbers over such a short period of time this may wipe out the country’s elephant population within 7 years.
Elephant extinction in Tanzania would bring serious consequences in the tourism industry, as well as undo significant economic gains realized over the past years. Results of the above study by TAWIRI led President Jakaya Kikwete to order an investigation in early 2012 (Daily News 11 January 2012). Incidences of illegal seizures of ivory and illegal killings in 2011/2012 were sighted as the worst in decades with a number of large ivory seizures (UNEP, 2012) as indicated below and through the link where some of the cases in and outside Tanzania are reported. Presently, the estimated number of African elephants is about 0.5 million in the entire African range states (Blanc et al., 2007). Since 2004, this species, Loxodonta Africana, was classified as “vulnerable to extinction” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Under the leadership of the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) are providing support towards improving the effectiveness of national parks in addressing the threats to biodiversity through the “Strengthening the Protected Area Network in Southern Tanzania” project. This US $6.3 million programme support aims at creating a coordinated landscape management approach in the Greater Ruaha Landscape (GRL) and Greater Kitulo-Kipengele Landscape (GKKL) to serve as a shield against human-induced pressures on southern Tanzania’s threatened biodiversity. The Ruaha National Park is the largest national park in Tanzania and is now the second largest wildlife protection area in Africa after Kafue National Park of Zambia. The Ruaha National Park is one of the last great strongholds for the African elephant.
UNDP was represented at the National Elephant Day - Siku Ya Tembo Kitaifa event by Gemma Aliti (Programme Associate) and Vito Scuderi (Junior Professional Consultant). This first time annual event began with an “Elephant March” that started at the University of Dar es Salaam, concluding at the Mlimani Conference.
For further information contact:
Gertrude Lyatuu:Practice Specilialist