Written by: David Liebst
At Lake Manze Camp, significant numbers of elephant pass through the camp daily – almost as if they feel safe there. Watch this film that shows a mother elephant confident enough to allow her baby to suckle right beside the dining room where guests were having lunch.
It is important to have visitors in the parks and reserves of Tanzania in order to raise awareness about elephants and to contribute to revenue that can be used in the fight against poaching, as well as to provide areas that are safe havens for the animals.
Malcolm Ryen, chief ecologist at Essential Destinations, who are the owners of Lake Manze Camp in Selous, made an interesting observation that poaching is much less apparent in the northern circuits of Tanzania, and he attributed this to the greater number of tourists present in the north, which makes it harder for poachers to go unnoticed.
Tanzania appears to be seeing less visitors each year as a protest against the previous lack of action against poaching, which is actually making it easier for poachers logistically to operate with a free hand all over the country.
Poaching has decimated the elephant populations in Tanzania by 60% over the last five years. And trends continue to show an alarming decline in their population in the south. As in the drug trafficking world, the ivory trade in Tanzania has developed itself into an organised syndicate with vast sums of money available for funding.
There is some evidence to show that the trend may be turning, and an end, although hazy, may be in sight.
Recent arrests of ivory traders Yang Feng Lan, dubbed the ‘Queen of Ivory‘, and Boniface Mariango, dubbed ‘Shetani’, which means evil in Swahili, can be credited as no small achievement to the Transnational Serious Crimes Unit, supported by the PAMS foundation. They claim that poaching will be brought under control within the next five years. These claims are supported by a large number of arrests and seizures of large consignments of ivory.
Involvement of the newly elected president of Tanzania, John Magufuli, may offer hope of a positive outcome. In the few months he has been in power, he has been called an inspiration to African leaders in his move against corruption, and with his visions for self-sustainability. In his inaugural address on 20th November 2015, he stated: “There has been poaching in which the responsible ministry must be involved, for it is not possible for ivory of such large amounts from our country to be seized in other countries without the knowledge of our local officials.” Eliminating the tentacles that poaching has developed is an important step towards curbing the trend.
For more information, read the viewpoint of the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (STEP).
Whatever conclusion we reach, there is no doubt that the gentle giants need all the help they can get from all of us.