To save the jumbo, make wildlife management areas effective

Wednesday February 1 2017


By Edward Lekaita, Lathifa Sykes and George Wambura

In a country that has lost almost 60 percent of its elephants in just the past seven years, we find hope in places like Tarangire National Park, which is home to one of northern Tanzania’s largest populations of the jumbos. Tourism – and the money and attention it brings to the region – has helped Tarangire remain a relatively safe sanctuary for elephants.

But another critical factor, and one that is connected to tourism, has been the community lands bordering the park that elephants’ depend on.

Today there are three Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) surrounding the park – Randilen, Burunge and Makame.

Tarangire’s elephants and the tourism that depends on them, need these WMAs to thrive, and that means communities need to adequately benefit from protecting wildlife, enough so that it offsets the cost of living alongside what can be dangerous and destructive animals.

A new publication that explores the financial viability of WMAs concludes that “while communities are earning some income, WMAs do not yet have enough funds to cover management and wildlife protection costs.” This needs to change because our tourism, communities and wildlife are at stake.

To address this, we share the main recommendations highlighted in the publication.

One of the recommendations is that outside support must supplement management costs. It is hoped that in five to ten years WMAs will be more economically viable operations able to cover the costs essential to keeping wildlife protected.

However, at present this is simply not the case and WMAs risk failure if additional funding, resources, and support are not provided.

Government has an important role to play here, perhaps providing scouts, training, vehicles or other forms of support to WMAs, which is an arrangement seen in countries like Namibia and Kenya, where community-based conservation has had some great successes and government is increasingly investing resources in community conservancies and other local institutions.

The government should also make sure that payments to Wildlife Division are reconsidered. The government has an opportunity to invest more in WMAs in order to improve their performance and viability. One way to do this is to ensure that the WMAs retain more of the revenue that they generate from tourism and trophy hunting.

Currently the Wildlife Division (WD) retains a significant portion of the WMA revenue (30 percent of photographic and 55 percent of hunting), which effectively serves as a high rate of taxation on the revenue WMAs generate from village lands.

Communities are not earning enough to be incentivised to conserve and thus the level of WMA revenue that is channelled to WD should be reconsidered in order to help WMAs deliver better for communities and conservation.

There is also a need to support greater investments in WMAs. Promoting new or increased tourism investments in WMAs, such as establishing campsites, building new roads for quick access into parks or enhancing marketing efforts, should be encouraged and supported. Further, tourism operators need to be held accountable and contribute to WMAs when they benefit from them.

Policies should enable WMAs to generate increased revenue. The Tanzania National Park Authority’s (Tanapa) new single-entry policy is a constraint to tourism revenue generation in WMAs, where many tourists visit Tarangire National Park as part of their stay in the WMA.

Enabling multiple-entry, at least for guests staying in WMAs on their borders, is a way to support and promote the WMAs and thus the conservation of the wider park ecosystem.

WMAs have an important role to play in community development and wildlife conservation in Tanzania. We need to make sure they work.

Mr Lekaita is the Legal Advisor at Ujamaa Community Resource Team, Ms Sykes is CEO of the Hotels Association of Tanzania and Mr Wambura is CEO of the Community Wildlife Management Areas Consortium