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Tanzania’s anti-poaching crusade takes new turn

Tanzania’s anti-poaching crusade takes new turn

Tanzania will in the near future establish an anti-poaching intelligence unit in its bid to curb the vice which has seen populations of elephants and rhinos in the country significantly reduced in recent years.

The Great Elephant Census conducted in seven key ecosystems from May to November 2014 indicated the country had lost 60 per cent of its jumbos to poachers then.

The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (Tawiri) census showed the elephants’ population had nosedived from 109,051 in 2009 to barely 43,521 in 2004.

Thanks to Chinese-led criminal gangs and corrupt Tanzanian officials for trafficking huge consignments of ivory, mostly to Asian countries.

The newly appointed Tanzanian minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, commends ongoing efforts to restrain what the Environmental Investigation Agency termed as the country’s most serious environmental crimes of the decade.

Dr Kigwangalla believes the anti-poaching intelligence unit will go a long way in reinforcing the gains so far made in rooting out the vice.

Addressing Tanzania National Park (Tanapa) workers during his farmiliarization tour of the authority in Arusha recently, Dr Kigwangalla warns bogus service providers in the tourism industry, saying their days are numbered.

Unless a provider pursues a training course tailor-made for his service and is awarded a certificate, he will not secure a license to operate in the industry by January next year, he cautions.

“Tour guides are our receptionists, they must operate professionally if tourists are to return and advocate for our attractions back home,” he says.

Dr Kigwangalla says much as the destiny of the tourism industry heavily relies on the word of mouth, tourists ought to be served like kings for them to become the sector’s good ambassadors back home.

“If a tour guide gives a tourist a bad experience, we will not only lose the visitor, but also taint the image of the entire sector,” he explains.

In another development, Dr Kigwangalla says the government will set guidelines for vehicles, accommodation and all other tourism services in the move aimed at promoting professionalism in the multi-million dollar industry.

The minister says the government is also identifying challenges arising from poor services some sister institutions offer tourists.

The Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry will train and provide the supporting institutions, including the Immigration Department and the Police Force, with essential gear for them to timely provide tourists with quality services.

Dr Kigwangalla says it is time the southern and western tourism circuits are opened up to relieve the northern one of uncalled for pressure.

While 10 tourists’ vans surround only one lion in the northern tourism circuit, one visitor views 10 lions in the southern one, he observes.

The government will invest Sh300 billion (over $136 million) worth infrastructure for tourists to easily access fabulous attractions and cultural tourism the virgin circuits have in offer, he says.

“The northern tourism circuit is overwhelmed, we must think of promoting Udzungwa and Kitulo Garden if we are to achieve the target of attracting two million plus visitors annually by 2020,” he stresses. Currently, Tanzania’s tourists’ arrivals stand at barely 1,100,000.

Dr Kigwangalla says the government will also invest in electronic revenue collection systems to ensure the tourism industry contributes its right share to the national economy.

The tourism sector fetches the national coffers $2.05 billion, equivalent to 17.6 per cent of the county’s gross domestic product.

In addition, the sector creates about 500,000 direct jobs, let alone over one million other Tanzanians indirectly benefiting from the same.

Tourism value chain in the country supports parks, conservation areas, Wildlife Management Areas, transporters, fuel stations, spare parts suppliers, builders, manufacturers, and food and beverages catered.

The Tanapa Director General, Mr Allan Kijazi, says although many government institutions are shifting to the country’s Dodoma Capital, headquarters of the authority will remain in Arusha, pending a directive from the ministry.

Nevertheless, he says the authority will construct a small office in Dodoma by end of this year to serve as its branch in the Capital.

Responding to operational glitches the Tanapa workers raised during his meeting with them, the minister directed Mr Kijazi to submit their concerns to his office in a written form for him to scrutinize and work on.

Chief among the Tanapa workers’ concerns are belated regulations meant for easing wildlife-human conflicts along national park buffer zones and wildlife corridors as well as multiple taxes imposed on contributions of the authority to community surrounding national parks.

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