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Climate change: Deadly wildlife threat after poaching

Climate change: Deadly wildlife threat after poaching

Poaching poses a major threat to the existence of elephants in Tanzania; jumbos are fighting against many other wars mostly compounded by climate change which is silently rocking the resource-richest East African country.

Various measures the government has been taking against the vice notwithstanding, Selous, one of the world’s largest game reserves, lost 90 percent of its jumbos to poachers in the last 40 years.

The 50,000 square-kilometer Selous Game Reserve straddling Tanzania’s southern regions of Coast, Lindi, Morogoro, Mtwara and Ruvuma boasted accommodating over 110,000 elephants then, but is now a deserted home to only about 13,000 remaining jumbos.

Thanks to a syndicate comprising renowned tycoons from some developed countries and local politicians for denying the national coffers $6 million revenue the Tanzania taxman used to collect from the heritage site declared by UNESCO in 2014.


If their appetite continues unabated, elephants will be wiped out in Selous Game Reserve in seven years, the Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals in one of its latest reports.   

“Despite deliberate efforts to build the capacity of game warders to confront poachers, the war is dangerous,” Hanock Msocha, the Selous Game Reserve Manager, admits in an interview with a state-owned newspaper – HabariLeo.

He points an accusing finger at local leaders for lacking political will required for ending the vice once and for all, charging some politicians and tycoons with equipping poachers with sophiscated technologies to meet their vested interest in the vice.

But elsewhere in Tanzania elephants are coping with, if not succumbing to, many other deadly threats mostly compounded by climate change including long dry spells, rampant wildfires and encroachment of human activities in game protected ecosystems.

Thanks once again to decision makers in industrialised countries, in particular, for hesitating to cut down high levels of carbon dioxide manufacturers produce in their countries at the expense of the ozone layer Mother Nature specifically created to absorb the heat-generating emissions.

As a result, global warming is taking its toll on Tanzania’s national parks, threatening to displace elephants and millions of other wildlife and putting the country’s foreign currency generating tourism industry at risk.

National parks at risk

Water depth of the Lake Manyara, which comprises two-third of Manyara National park, has shrunk 200 times since 1920s owing to persistent drought brought about by climate change and hence threatening the survival of the park altogether.

Established in 1960, the Tanzania’s second oldest national park after Serengeti is endowed with a variety of habitats and animals.

The breeding site for migratory birds attracts over 100,000 tourists a year, nearly 10 per cent of Tanzania’s annual tourist arrivals.

Africa’s largest concentration of elephants and large herds of flamingos inhabit the park with various habitats including lush groundwater forests, acacia woodlands, small grassy plains and a swampy fan delta.

The rich birdlife, hippos, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, baboons, gazelles and tree-climbing lions are some of the park’s main safari attractions.



However, conservationists say the falling depth of the fresh water body, which covers 220 square kilometres out of 330 square kilometres of the entire park, is a sign of global warming in action.

Other Tanzania’s national parks hardest hit by global warning include Serengeti, Mkomazi, Mikumi and Saadani whose wildlife populations have been migrating to buffer corridors turned human settlements to scout for water and pasture.

The migration does not only create fatal human-wildlife conflicts, but also expose the animals to poachers hunting for their tusks, among other trophies.

“We have lost a significant number of wildlife in our national parks due to severe drought in recent years, compelling us to construct water dams and drill boreholes,” Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Director General Allan Kijazi is quoted as lamenting in an interview.

But dams and boreholes end up fuelling wildlife-human conflicts outside national parks as both animals and pastoralists scramble for the precious liquid.

Longido, one of the districts of Arusha Region which have been hit hard by climate change, recently saw a young elephant drown in a borehole whose water wildlife animals share with Maasai pastoralist community.

The borehole is the sole reliable source of water at the drought-stricken Kimokowo Village situated on the footsteps of Longido Mountain — a stone’s throw from the Tanzania-Kenya border.

Longido District Commissioner Daniel Chongolo admits that wildlife and pastoralists have for quite a long time been rescuing each other at the borehole and that it is the first time an animal drowns.  

“Animals often jostle each other on their way to the borehole, leading some of them to fall into it,” Chongolo explains in a telephone interview with a reporter from Tanzania Journalists for Conservation (TJC).

Chongolo says local authorities cannot construct a fence around the borehole, lest it prevents elephants, giraffes and other wildlife animals from accessing the sole water source they relied on at the area.

“All risky water wells have been fenced,” says Chongolo, as he blames wildlife management authorities and other stakeholders for their failure to find a lasting solution for wildlife and pastoralists sharing the borehole.

 

“They should consider providing the pastoralists with reliable clean water to prevent wildlife animals from clashing with members of the surrounding community,” he suggests.

 

As for now, members of the Maasai pastoralist community feel the wildlife management authorities and other stakeholders care for animals more than they do for them.

 

Worried over the survival of the wild animals, conservationists in Tanzania foresee a great loss of wildlife and a slump in tourism if the situation continues unchecked for five more years.

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