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Elephant killing threatens tourism in Selous Game Reserve

Elephant killing threatens tourism in Selous Game Reserve

Elephant poaching in southern Tanzania wildlife conserved parks is under spotlight by wildlife conservation groups worried over negative economic consequences with losses in tourist gains.

Recent report on elephant poaching had indicated that Tanzania has been losing big numbers of elephants in southern parks, mostly in Selous Game Reserve which is counted the biggest wildlife reserve in Africa.

Covering 50,000 square kilometers, Selous Game Reserve has badly hit by poaching, losing almost 2,500 elephants per year, WWF Tanzania Country Office said.

Selous Game Reserve has lost almost 90 percent of its elephant population from 115,000 in 1975 to just slightly 15,000 counted in 2015), WWF report said, quoting the latest elephant census carried out there.

The report seen by eTN however, said that Selous Game Reserve is famous for tourism, generating over US$ 6 million from tourists visiting its wildlife resources.

“By investing in elephant conservation, the Tanzanian government will ensure sustained growth in direct revenue from tourism sector. WWF Tanzania continues to campaign to stop elephant poaching in Tanzania, and especially in Selous,” Dr. Amani Ngusaru, country director of WWF-Tanzania told eTN.

“The tourism industry in Tanzania depends heavily on the existence of our wildlife and protected areas. The possibility to see and ease of access to these charismatic and iconic species attract large number of tourists each year,” Dr. Ngusaru said.

It is estimated that elephant poaching cost African countries about US$25 million per year from tourism revenue.

“We know that within parks, tourism suffers when elephant poaching ramps up. This work provides a first estimate of the scale of that loss, and shows pretty convincingly that stronger conservation efforts usually make sound economic sense even when looking at just this one benefit stream,” said Professor Andrew Balmford, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

Research undertaken by scientists from WWF, the University of Vermont, and the University of Cambridge said the economic losses that the current elephant poaching surge is inflicting on nature-based tourism economies in Africa.

The research shows that tourism revenue lost to the current poaching crisis exceeds the anti-poaching costs necessary to stop the decline of elephants in East, Southern and West Africa. Rates of return on elephant conservation in these regions are positive, signaling a strong economic incentive for countries to protect elephant populations.

“The average rate of return on elephant conservation in east, west, and south Africa compares favorably with rates of return on investments in areas like education, food security and electricity,” said Dr. Brendan Fisher, an economist at University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics.

“Selous is the only natural World Heritage site in southern Tanzania and one of the largest wilderness areas left in Africa. Its value to Tanzania, and indeed to the rest of the world. Is dependent on its large wildlife populations and pristine ecosystems,” said Dr. Ngusaru.

The global nature conservation organization (WWF) shows how the loss of Selous’ elephants would have a negative effect on Tanzania’s nature based economy, putting the livelihoods of 1.2 million people at risk.

“Travel and tourism in Selous generate U$6 million annually, and the industry represents a combined yearly contribution of U$5 billion to the Tanzania’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) along with other renowned parks including Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Parks.

Uranium mining inside the park (Selous) is still under spotlight by WWF Tanzania which had expressed its worries over extraction of this radioactive mineral, saying the process and other industrial activities being carried in Mkuju River within the wildlife conserved reserve could compromise long-term economic and health risks to the people and the economy of Tanzania at large.

Extractive and Energy expert with WWF Tanzania Office Mr. Brown Namgera said risks of spreading of leaching liquid outside of the uranium deposit, involving subsequent groundwater contamination cannot be controlled.

“Contaminants that are mobile under chemically reducing conditions, such as radium cannot be controlled. If the chemically reducing conditions are later disturbed for any reasons, the precipitated contaminants are re-mobilized, the restoration process takes very long periods of time, not all parameters can be lowered appropriately,” he told eTN

Professor Hussein Sossovele, senior environmental researcher in Tanzania said that uranium mining within Selous Game Reserve could lead to dangerous consequences to the park.

“Comparably, uranium mining could generate less than US$ 5 million per year, while tourism gains from tourists visiting the park each year,” Prof. Sossovele said.

But Tanzanian Energy and Minerals Minister Sospeter Muhongo defended the government on uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve.

“We are not the first country to engage on mining of uranium; it should be noted as well that all big economies in the world are in demand of the heavy metal for power generation, weapons and for use in health services,” Prof Muhongo said.

“Our position as the government of Tanzania is that, the project will go on as planned,” the Tanzanian minister said.

Through its just launched campaign of “Zero Poaching is Possible,” WWF is currently working closely with other conservation institutions across the world to fight for survival of elephants in Selous game Reserve.

The Selous Game Reserve represents one of the last great wildernesses in Africa and has enormous importance for the protection of Tanzania’s natural heritage.

It also represents great economic potential for revenue generation through consumptive and non-consumptive resource use. The global importance of the reserve was recognized in 1982, when it was declared a World Heritage Site.

Larger than Switzerland or Denmark or Ireland, the Selous Game Reserve or “Shamba la Bibi” is the largest protected area in Africa, and the wildest area in the world. Attractive for hunting and photographic safaris, Selous Game reserve is a beautiful and unique wildlife sanctuary by its rivers and lakes, which make it one of the best watered protected areas in Africa.

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