Alarm as poachers introduce new tactic

Giraffe flesh has lately become very popular in the bush meat markets in the northern regions, although it is illegal. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Poaching has decreased in recent years as a result of concerted efforts, yet a few human-wildlife conflicts remain a conservation issue

Arusha. The human-wildlife conflict has been blamed for escalating poaching in the wildlife-rich Lake Manyara basin.

Local communities, on the other hand, have taken animals to be enemies for attacking their livestock and destroying farms.

Wildlife officers in the area said poachers have taken advantage of the conflict to kill wild animals at will.

“There is a marked increase in poaching,” said Mr James Msuka, a ranger with the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa).

He told wildlife and tourism stakeholders who visited the area last week that the trend was a matter of concern.

“The big mammals you see moving have marks on their bodies. They are under siege from attackers using crude weapons,” he said.

He said the threat was more pronounced on the Kwakuchinja wildlife corridor, one of the tourist attractions in the area.

The animal migratory route connects the Tarangire and Lake Manyara national parks and the Lake Natron basin, among other famous sites.

The three areas are among the leading destinations for tourists in the northern circuit after the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Tawa, in collaboration with other wildlife organisations, has intensified patrols to allow for uninterrupted wildlife movement.

Mr Msuka could not give statistics but said anti-poaching teams working in the area have developed ‘trophy inventory’ to assess the crisis.

He added that the corridor, which has increasingly shrunk, must be secured to allow nature to take its course.

“Ours is a patrol job to protect the ecology against environmental destruction”, he insisted.

He denied that the villagers, including livestock herders, were being unfairly targeted by the game rangers.

“If somebody or the village had acquired land legally, we would have no problem. We try to resolve conflicts with the villagers,” he pointed out.

However, the Tawa official could not hide his feelings that overgrazing was a challenge to the entire Kwakuchinja wildlife corridor. The route

Christopher Peter Laizer, the Babati district game officer, echoed that, saying the human-wildlife conflicts in the area were real but manageable.

The wanton killings of wild animals are not only confined to the corridor but extended to the adjacent national parks, specifically Tarangire NP.

Giraffe, the national symbol in Tanzania, has borne the brunt of killings in recent years, mostly along the corridor and the entire Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.

“It is true, poaching cases are increasing, but we have strategies to identify the gaps”, he said.

One of the measures, he said, was raising public awareness about the dangers of wanton killing of wildlife and land restoration.

Although it has lately hosted numerous human settlements, the Kwakuchinja animal migration route falls under the famous Burunge Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

The 283-square km WMA is deemed to be one of the most successful community-based wildlife conservation programs in the country.

Senior officials of the Department of Natural Resources and Tourism have lately expressed their concerns about the status of the conservation area.

Their fears stem from the invasion of the protected areas by new settlers and livestock grazers, which they believe has fueled human and wildlife conflicts.

The debate on the said WMA has raged for some time, with the traditional livestock keepers feeling they were being shortchanged.

Wildlife experts, on the other hand, acknowledge the challenge but maintain that communities in such areas can be taught mitigation methods to protect themselves from the animal attacks.

Giraffe flesh has lately become very popular in the bush meat markets in the northern regions, although it is illegal.

According to records, at the Manyara Regional Police Commander’s Office, some 260 kilograms of giraffe meat were impounded in the area between January and March last year.