LACK of mandate by local authorities to supervise activities in the Selous Game Reserve and forests in Kisarawe district in Coast region is said to be among the reasons for enduring poaching and poor promotion of tourism in the area.
Residents and authorities alike say the area’s forests alone could be a source of ecotourism which would in turn encourage people to preserve them while part of the Selous Game Reserve that falls in the district could be used to attract tourists and fight poaching.
Kisarawe District Council chairman, Mr Adam Ng’imba and the District Natural Resources Officer, Mr Edfas Bayela respectively have admitted that they are not aware of how many tourists visited the area last year and the extent of poaching.
Residents, including a former poacher, however, are of the opinion that poaching is a very serious problem and some blame the government for neglecting parts of the reserve that fall in Kisarawe district. A recent report indicates Tanzania is losing around 70 elephants a day to poachers, with around half of the country’s elephants slaughtered in just the last three years.
“We do not have any mandate over the part of the reserve in our district, we are only considered stakeholders. We only receive 20 per cent of the revenue collected by the central government from various activities in the reserve,” said Mr Ng’imba.
He also called for more involvement of district councils in preserving forests that would attract ecotourism which would help in fighting poverty and preserve the environment. Mr Bakari Chanzi, who identified himself as one of residents of Kisarawe was not so diplomatic about the reasons for poaching by many residents in Kisarawe, and his sentiments were echoed by a reformed poacher, Mr Said Seleman alias Mbogo.
Mr Chanzi said that many people live on the periphery of the reserve, parts of which they feel have been neglected by authorities. With minimal education about poaching and animals easily crossing paths with humans, they start off small before being drifted deep into the reserve to as far as Morogoro region or across Rufiji river to the neighbouring district of the Coast region.
He also opined that people in the district have been living in poverty for many years with little economic activities, thus, poaching had been viewed as an easy alternative means of making money. Mr Seleman shares similar views and being a former poacher himself, he said that though the venture was dangerous, it was extremely profitable. He suggested that to deter people from joining the criminal enterprise, more should be done to create jobs in the area.
“Our areas of activities were mostly in our part of the game reserve and along Rufiji River. But at times we find ourselves dragged all the way to Morogoro in search of game. We used to walk for many days and sometimes months before returning home with whatever we may have found,” he notes.
In the wild, he says, they become like the animals they are out hunting. Since they could not go with vehicles because they couldn’t afford to and it would also have drawn the attention of authorities, they had to go on foot.
Sean Willmore of the Australian- based International Ranger Federation was recently quoted as saying that corruption among wildlife rangers is becoming a serious impediment in the fight against poaching, fuelled by soaring levels of cash offered by criminal poacher syndicates. He said rangers in countries as diverse as Tanzania and Cambodia are being bribed by increasingly organised poaching gangs keen to supply ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts to meet huge consumer demands in Asia.
He observed that corruption in Tanzania was systematic, allowing poaching to flourish. The standard “bush” market value of ivory is 300 US dollars per kilogram, meaning that a 30kg haul from a single elephant can fetch up to 9,000 US dollars. From this, a ranger who turns a blind eye can get a cut of 2,000 US dollars, far more than his or her standard salary, according to Mr Willmore.
By Kilasa Mtambalike, Tanzania Daily News, 6 April 2013