Community Leaders Have Plans To Defend Wildlife, Ecosystems
Tanzania has emerged as the epicenter of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis after a government census revealed a 60 percent loss of its elephants in just five years.
The results add pressure to a government that has been heavily criticized for its inability to stop a flood of poached ivory being stripped from its national parks.
The Tanzanian government on Monday estimated that 65,721 elephants have died in the country in the last five years. The report showed the number of Tanzanian elephants plummeting from an estimated 109,051 in 2009 to 43,330 in 2014.
The census reveals a loss far greater than declines reported in Mozambique last week. The country’s minister for natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu said the situation was “unimpressive.”
“It is evident that elephant population in Tanzania has reached unprecedented low level,” he said. Tanzania’s wildlife rangers may be trained as a paramilitary as part of a government action plan to combat poaching, which Nyalandu identified as the “probable reason” for the decline.
“It is incredible that poaching on such an industrial scale has not been identified and addressed before now,” said Steven Broad, executive director of wildlife trade monitor Traffic.
Traffic said the numbers were catastrophic. Since 2009, at least 45 ton of ivory have reached the international black market from Tanzania, making it Africa’s largest source of poached ivory. The losses were worst in the Ruaha–Rungwa, Malagarasi-Muyovosi and Selous-Mikumi ecosystems, which all lost more than two-thirds of their elephants. In these reserves the “carcass ratio,” a number used to assess the death rates within populations, indicated elephants were dying at four times the natural rate.
Of particular concern is the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, where only 8,272 elephants remained in 2014, compared to 34,664 in 2009, according to government figures, the statement said. The icons have also been under attack in Kilimanjaro National Park, where just 100 elephants roam today.
“Tanzania has been hemorrhaging ivory with Ruaha-Rungwa the apparent epicenter and nobody seems to have raised the alarm,” Broad said, and urged the government to take action to bring the situation under control.
WWF’s global species program director Carlos Drews said the disappearance of so many elephants from Ruaha–Rungwa could only be explained by the involvement of the international crime gangs who have industrialized the killing of Africa’s megafauna.
“The slaughter of thousands of elephants in Ruaha–Rungwa clearly points to the involvement of international organized crime, which is compounded by corruption and weak enforcement capacity in Tanzania – and to the urgent need to scale up efforts to tackle the poaching epidemic before the area’s remaining elephant herds are destroyed,” he said.
In the Selous reserve, which has previously been identified as a poaching hotspot, the numbers dropped from almost 45,000 to around 15,000. Last year Unesco added Selous to its World Heritage in Danger list.
A breakdown of herds across the country showed some smaller elephant populations had increased, especially in the famed Serengeti region, which rose from 3,068 to 6,087 animals. However, beyond the most heavily visited tourist locations, elephant numbers were significantly down.
To help reverse this onslaught, several NGOs across Tanzania and Kenya have proposed plans to help defend elephants and other endangered species. They also will help defend entire ecosystems from collapse. They will help engage entire communities in many ways to improve their stake in wildlife and habitat conservation. Programs will include anti-poaching patrols, habitat restoration and conservation, watershed restoration, agroforestry, forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, solar power and more. Please visit our Tanzania link above.
Tanzania wildlife News via http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/02/tanzania-epicentre-of-elephant-poaching-census-reveals
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