Tanzania's wildlife population rebounds amid anti-poaching success

Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mohamed Mchengerwa, tables revenue and expenditure estimates for his ministry for the fiscal year 2023/24 in Parliament in Dodoma yesterday. Mr Mchengerwa asked MPs to pass a total of Sh654.6 billion.  PHOTO | EDWIN MJWAHUZI

What you need to know:

  • The number of black rhinos, an endangered species, has increased from 163 in 2019 to 238 in 2022, surpassing the target of 205 rhinos by the end of 2023

Dar es Salaam. The government said yesterday that the populations of black rhinos and elephants have rebounded significantly as anti-poaching campaigns pay off.

The number of black rhinos, an endangered species, has increased from 163 in 2019 to 238 in 2022, surpassing the target of having 205 rhinos by the end of 2023, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Mohamed Mchengerwa, said yesterday.

Presenting his ministry’s budget in Parliament, Mr Mchengerwa said the elephant population also increased from 43,330 in 2014 to 60,000 last year.

As a result, Tanzania currently boasts Africa's third-highest elephant population.

 "Wildlife security reports indicate that no elephant deaths have resulted from poaching between July 2022 and April 2023," he said.

He added that anti-poaching campaigns were boosted by efforts to control illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, and encroachment in protected areas.

"This is a clear indication that poaching is dropping in Tanzania," he said.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), black rhinos and elephants remain critically endangered species because of the demand for their horns and tusks in the illegal international market.

WWF says poaching for the illegal trade is the greatest and deadliest threat to these species, as the horns and tusks are traded to be used for traditional medicine and increasingly as a status symbol to display success and wealth.

According to Mr Mchengerwa, the conservation efforts remain evident as the country accommodates the largest populations of lions and giraffes at 14,912 and 24,000, respectively.

 "12,058 poaching suspects have been apprehended, and the minister has conducted special intelligence operations enabling the prevention of poaching and illegal harvesting of forest resources," he said.

"We have seized 214 assault weapons (of which 12 rifles, 2 pistols, 45 shotguns, and 155 grenades) and 1,427 bullets, and destroyed seven poaching networks," said the minister.

Performance of tourism sector

According to Minister Mchengerwa, in the 2022/2023 fiscal year, the tourism sector's performance continued to improve, significantly recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia–Ukraine war.

The number of tourists has more than doubled by 123 percent, from 1,711,625 visitors in 2021 to 3,818,180 visitors in 2022.

The largest improvement was in the number of domestic tourists. The number of local travellers increased to 2,363,260 in 2022 from 788,933 visitors recorded in 2021, a surge of 199.5 percent.

The number of foreign tourists improved by 57.7 percent from 922,692 to 1,454,920 visitors in the same period under review.

Tourism earnings

The inflow of travel earnings reached $2.52 billion in 2022, up from $1.31 billion in 2021.

Mr Mchengerwa said, "During the three years from 2022/2023 to 2024/2025, the ministry will be implementing strategies to promote and transform tourism so as to achieve the $6 billion revenue and 5 million tourists target by 2025 per the ruling party CCM manifesto."

 The tourism sector contributes 25 percent of the total foreign exchange earnings in the country and 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The forest sector, on the other hand, contributes 5.9 percent to the foreign currency coffers and 3.3 percent to the GDP.

Budget plans

Mr Mchengerwa wanted MPs to approve Sh654.66 billion for the 2023/2024 fiscal year with plans to implement key projects.

Parliamentary committee’s report

In their statement, the Lands, Natural Resources, and Tourism Committee urged the promotion of other tourist attractions to increase tourist earnings.

 The committee chairman, Mr Timotheo Mnzava, said those attractions include beach tourism, archaeology tourism, conference tourism, and forest tourism.

 "The government should involve the private sector and other stakeholders in developing and promoting new tourist attractions in the country in order to attract more tourists," he said.

 Mr Mnzava urged effective management of wildlife resources.

He said the committee has been advising the government, without success, to complete the process of submitting to parliament a wildlife conservation bill that would specify the responsibilities of the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa).

 "The committee continues to insist that the ministry should consider and implement this because the presence of a strong executive board with a legal mandate would effectively manage the performance of Tawa," he said.

The projects that the ministry wants to implement in the next fiscal year include the Public Finance Management and Reform Programme, phase VI, and the Resilient Natural Resources Management for Tourism and Growth Project.

The money would also go to support anti-poaching initiatives and illegal wildlife trade and a private plantation and value chain project.

Other projects in the pipeline for this year include capacity building in Forestry and Beekeeping, Support to Beekeeping Value Chain Programme and food Systems, Land Use and Restoration in Tanzania’s landscapes.