Tanzania’s Elephants Going Fast

Elephant Census In Selous-Mikumi, Ruaha-Rungwa Ecosystems Released

By Lazaro Nyalandu, MP., Deputy Minister For Natural Resources and Tourism, The United Republic Of Tanzania.

Excellencies. Ambassadors. Government officials. Conservation Stakeholders. Members of the Press. Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning. On January 07, my Ministry, with the support of Game Frontier Ltd, was able to airlift one of our bravest Game Rangers, Mr Richard Temu for emergency medical treatment following his encounter with wildlife poachers while on duty at Ugalla Game Reserve.

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For the past 7 years, the Department of Wildlife has lost 13 Game Rangers and officers killed in the line of duty by poachers, while 4 Game Rangers have critically been injured. A young lady, Dorcus Lumbagi was bruttally killed by poachers who cowardly sprayed bullets to terminate such promising young girl.

Our hearts and thoughts go to their families and their country and the world is grateful for their sacrifices. On behalf of the government, and the entire world community which care deeply about conservation of our heritage, I salute Mr. Temu and these men and women in uniform and hereby express my deepest appreciation for their sacrifice in protecting what is dear to our hearts. Tanzania’s wildlife heritage.

After the Botswana Conference on Elephants, there was Franco-African Summit in Paris, in which HE the President, Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete attended and by whereby the government of France and the EU made commitments to helping African countries fight poaching and traffickers. 

Further to these commitments, the United Kingdom graciously announced to host the London Conference to address the elephants poaching crisis in February, and I wish to announce Tanzania’s readiness to participate and engage with the world community in seeking the much needed global support to defeat poaching in our country. Our government further appreciates the commitment made the the United States to join hands to support our efforts, which was made during the visit by President Barack Obama last year.

This morning, the government would further wish to thank all of you, our development partners for standing side by side with us during the most trying times in the history of conservation in Tanzania. We further appreciate the financial as well as logistical support extended to our Department of Wildlife during the exercise of elephants sensor carried out in Selous-Mikumi, and Ruaha Rungwa ecosystem, which was jointly financed by Germany’s GIZ, through Frankfurt Ziological Society (FZS), the UNDP through their joint project with TANAPA and SPANEST.

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Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, given the gravity of the poaching problem facing Tanzania today, the government is committed to go the distance to fight and defeat poaching. This commitment was demonstrated by the government when we ordered Operation Tokomeza from 4th October to 1st November last year and unfortunately, following allegations of gross misconducts and reported human rights abuses, the government ordered a halt, while investigating all the abuses reported. 

As you may all recall, during his end of the year address, the President, Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete ordered a formation of Judicial Commission of Enquiry to throughly investigate and further prosecute all persons who may be found guilty of the offenses against people’s and human rights during the Operation Tokomeza. 

We shall leave no stones unturned in our pursuit to bring to justice those responsible, regardless of their positions. We seek to further demonstrate to our citizens and to the international community, our government’s highest standards in upholding human rights as has been Tanzania’s renown record and standing among nations.

Further to these efforts, my Ministry is pleased to announce today that we have formulated and updated the Codes of Conduct which must now be followed in all of our anti poaching related operations in order to further safe guard people’s rights and, they shall be mandated to be followed by all Game Rangers, Game Officers, and any security officials involved in anti poaching operations. On this note, we wish to further announce that Operation Tokomeza II shall start in due course.

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The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism wishes to announce the results of the elephant census that was conducted in October and November this year. The census aimed at providing the Government with knowledge and understanding of the current status of elephant populations within and outside the protected areas. The Ministry, in collaboration with experts, from within and outside the country, conducted the census in Selous-Mikumi and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems, the areas which are important strongholds for elephants in Tanzania.

The results of this census, indicate that the elephant populations in the two ecosystems (Selous-Mikumi and Ruaha-Rungwa) are 13,084 and 20 090, respectively. These figures indicate a notable decline in populations in these ecosystems, compared with previous censuses.

Statistics from previous censuses indicate that in 1976 the Selous-Mikumi Ecosystem had 109,419 elephants. This number dropped dramatically to 22 208 in 1991 following a wave of poaching that emerged between 1984 and 1989. This number, however, rose to 70,406 in 2006 following a countrywide ‘Operation Uhai’ that was launched in 1989 and ended 1990 along with international conservation efforts which included termination of the ivory trade. 

The population of elephants in this ecosystem has dropped again in recent years: in 2009 the number of elephants stood at 38,975, while right now, the number has further dropped to 13,084. A similar situation appears in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem where the 1990 census recorded 11,712 elephants due to a wave of poaching. This number increased to 35,461 in 2006, but as of now only 20,090 remain.

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These results indicate that elephant population in the Selous -Mikumi Ecosystem has declined by 66 percent, from the 2009 population, which was 38,975 elephants. On the other hand, the population in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, has declined by 36.5 percent from the population that was recorded in 2009, i.e. 31,625 elephants.

This decrease in elephant population is verified by a number of dead bodies that were counted during the census exercise. Some 6,516 and 3,496 carcasses were counted in Selous- Mikumi and Ruaha-Rungwa Ecosystems, respectively. In this exercise, the proportion between the live elephants and carcasses which were counted (carcass ratio) were used as criteria to establish the causes of the deaths. Under normal conditions, the ratio of 7-8 percent indicates natural mortality such as diseases and old age. The remaining proportion indicates that the mortalities were non-natural.

The recent census, demonstrates a ratio of 30 percent of elephants for Selous-Mikumi ecosystem and 14.6 percent for Rungwa-Ruaha Ecosystem. These results indicate that, a large number of elephant deaths are non-natural deaths. A detailed analysis has revealed that 95 and 85 percent of carcasses observed in Selous-Mikumi and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems had more than 18 months. This is a clear indication that the recent efforts made by the government including strengthening of patrols and conducting numerous special operations have significantly reduced a wave of poaching.

The seizures of elephant tusks weighing 32,987 kilograms, within and outside the country, between 2008 to September 2013, is a sign that poaching is one of the main reasons for the decrease of elephant populations in the country. The increase of livestock grazing in protected areas and wildlife corridors is another contributing factor to the demise of elephants. For instance, Kilombero Game Controlled Areas, a part of the Selous–Mikumi Ecosystem, had about 2,080 elephants in the 2002 census, but none was recorded in the recent census.

Increased demand for ivory, particularly in the Far East countries and, therefore, price increase is a catalyst and a key determinant for the recent widespread elephant poaching.

The census results we have released today, is clear evidence that poaching of elephants has reached unprecedented levels. In response to this unimpressive situation, my Ministry is determined to intensify the protection of wildlife in collaboration with other stakeholders including defense and security forces, regional and international institutions. The Ministry will also promote education and adopt strategies aiming at involving the public in conservation efforts.

In view of maintaining and enhancing conservation efforts, my Ministry is finalizing the process of establishing an autonomous body – Tanzania Wildlife Authority. In addition, the wildlife conservation laws are being reviewed in order to allow adoption of a paramilitary system among the employees of the wildlife sector.

Once again, the Ministry would like to recognize and thank all donors who made this census possible. The cost for this census was U.S. $ 160,000. Funds were contributed by the Government and donors. The donors were: the German Technical Assistance (GIZ) via Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the SPANEST TANAPA Project.

Source: www.MellowswanAfrica.org

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