Saturday, March 20, 2010

The survival of our wildlife

The survival of our wildlife is a matter of serous concern to all of us in Tanzania. These wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration but are an essential part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and well being.

In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we should do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.

Conservation in Tanzania is governed by the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1974, which allows the Government to establish protected areas and outlines how these are to be organized and managed. National Parks represent the highest level of resource protection that can be provided.

National Parks retain a high degree of integrity as a true, accurate and unspoiled example of a resource. Management Plans for parks are developed by interdisciplinary teams comprised of appropriate professionals with the best available information to achieve a balance between preservation and use that does not adversely impact park resources and values.

The Legal mandate of Tanzania National Parks is to manage and regulate the use of areas designated as National Parks by such means and measures to preserve the country’s heritage, encompassing natural and cultural resources, both tangible and intangible resource values, including the fauna and flora, wildlife habitat, natural processes, wilderness quality and scenery therein and to provide for human benefit and enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.

Tourism sector supporting extraordinary investment in the future and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) is also currently acquiring further land to expand certain parks. Tourism provides valuable revenue used to support the conservation work of the national parks, as well as wildlife research, and the education and livelihood of local communities.

In addition, tourism helps to generate international awareness of conservation issues, while the physical presence of tourists can help deter illegal poaching activity, assisting the park rangers with their game management work.

It is a right time for our government to work hard to ensure that local communities have a sense of ownership and a vested interest in the future of the parks by sharing the rewards of conservation and delivering tangible benefits.

A percentage of park revenues should be used to assist community development initiatives, such as schools, health dispensaries, water schemes and roads. Villagers should be encouraged to develop cultural tourism projects to cultivate their own financial returns from park visitors. However many locals are employed within the parks as lodges and tour operators.

When villagers depend on the park for employment, and witness the community benefits from the presence of a park, they are more likely to defend the protected area and to report poaching. Poaching involves not only the commercial hunting of elephants and rhinoceroses for ivory and rhino horn, but also subsistence activities such as honey collection, illegal fishing and hunting for the pot, felling trees for construction or firewood, and picking traditional medicinal plants that have become scarce in unprotected areas.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism through it agencies should work with communities to teach sustainable environmental management, assist with tree planting, establish nurseries, and promote cultural, as well as wildlife conservation.

The Ministry must take lead in educating local people, providing study materials and teacher training for schools, and showing conservation videos in Swahili in villages. Schools and community groups should be offered free visits to the parks to demonstrate the importance of preserving these habitats.

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