Dar es Salaam. The government vowed yesterday that it would continue to protect the Selous Game Reserve in an effort to ensure that it maintains its world heritage status.
The statement by permanent secretary in the ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Dr Allan Kijazi follows some concerns from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
Dr Kijazi, who doubles as Director General for the Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa), said responsible ministries have been engaging in experts’ meetings to review the issue raised by Unesco.
“Since we got that report from Unesco, ministries have done several meetings with experts at different levels, including at the level of permanent secretaries, to analyse Unesco’s argument,” he said.
“We have done a review of the issue and so far the fact is that they (the raised issues) are baseless,” he said.
He said the raised issues were not in line with what needs to be done for a country or a game reserve to be scrapped from the list of world heritage sites.
The government’s reaction comes at a time when a meeting of the world heritage committee of the Unesco continues in China, where it is examining the state of conservation of around 250 sites that are on world heritage list.
The AFP news agency reported that nearly 50 new sites could be added to the over 1,100 listed worldwide by the Unesco as world heritage sites during two-week long virtual meetings hosted by China.
The meeting started on Friday.
About 53 of the 250 sites are on the committee’s “List of World Heritage in Danger” - a move meant to prod officials into taking corrective action. Those at risk list includes the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania - one of Africa’s biggest remaining wilderness expanses.
Unesco experts say rampant elephant poaching, as well as the sale of logging rights and a dam project on the Rufiji river, could cause “irreversible damage.”
What ruling means
The prestigious World Heritage label can be a boon for tourism while encouraging governments to protect cultural or environmental treasures, under the watchful eye of Unesco advisers.
But addition isn’t permanent, and sites can also be stripped of their status or be warned they are at risk. The agenda for this year is particularly heavy after last year’s meeting was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Selous was established in 1922, and in 1982 it was declared a Unesco world heritage site thanks to its rich diversity of wildlife and uninterrupted nature.
Large numbers of elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles live in this immense sanctuary, which measures 50,000 square kilometres.
Tanapa in 2019 proposed and declared a change of identity of the reserve to be known as The Nyerere National Park as a way of honoring the first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere.
Tanzania is home to several Unesco heritage sites, including: Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Kilimanjaro National Park, Stone Town of Zanzibar and Kondoa Rock-Art