Archive for Tourism & Environmental

TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Ben Taylor

A busy first few months for Minister Kigwangalla
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla, has stirred up the sector since his appointment in late 2017. In a little over six months in office, he has accused several hunting companies of grave acts of misconduct, including announcing that the managing director of Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) was under investiga­tion for corruption; revoked and then extended tourist hunting licenses issued between 2013 and 2017; accused Ministry staff of collusion with poachers; fired the head of Wildlife Conservation, Emmanuel Barabara; and directed the police to arrest certain individuals he suspects of involvement either in poaching or in the death of conservationist Wayne Lotter.

These moves have prompted both support and criticism.

Leaders of the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA) accused the Minister of “disrespect for natural justice.” TPHA linked the minister’s remarks against some of the association’s members with his attempt to cancel validly-granted hunting blocks to operators, claim­ing that this is a dangerous precedent that is not based on law and “not in the best interests of the tourism industry”.

Conservation activist, Susannah Nordlund, said local activists’ hopes had been raised by the Minister’s early stance against OBC – including a promise that they would be “gone by January” – but that their hopes had been dashed by his more recent actions. “Now they feel sorry that he has had to bow to pressure from his superiors,” she wrote in a blog­post after Kigwangalla expressed support for OBC following a visit by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, to OBC hunting blocks in March.

The Minister stated in April that not a single wild animal has been reported killed by poachers in the past 6 months.

Selous elephant collaring project launched
The government, with support from WWF, has launched the country’s largest ever elephant collaring effort. 60 elephants will be collared in and around the Selous. This will support reserve management and gov­ernment rangers, enabling them to track elephant movements, identify and act against threats in real-time.

“In a landscape as vast as Selous where poaching continues, better information on the whereabouts of elephants is critical to anticipate the risks they may encounter, including fatal attacks by poachers,” said Asukile Kajuni of WWF-Tanzania. “The collars mark an important first step in the zero-poaching approach we are taking by enabling wildlife protection teams to be on the front foot against poaching attacks,” he added.

In 2014, UNESCO placed Selous on its List of World Heritage in Danger due to the severity of elephant poaching. In the past 40 years, widespread poaching of elephants for ivory has seen the population in Selous decimated, with numbers plunging from 110,000 to an estimated 15,000.
To collar an elephant, the animal is first sedated by an immobilisation dart. A team then moves in to gather health data about the elephant and attach the collar. This takes a total of up to 30 minutes, following which the elephant is given an antidote to revive and join its herd. (Daily News)

Parliament endorses Paris Climate Agreement
The National Assembly in early April formally endorsed the Paris Climate Change agreement. The Minister of State in the Vice President Office (Union Affairs and the Environment), January Makamba, tabled the motion, which was unanimously supported.

Makamba said endorsing the agreement would have a positive impact on the country’s economy. “It will strengthen Tanzania’s multinational cooperation in matters pertaining to climate change,” he said, add­ing that the pact would help increase opportunities in clean energy technology through the use of natural gas for domestic purposes, thus accelerating progress towards industrialisation and the use of afford­able energy.

After parliament’s endorsement, the next step is for Tanzania to formally ratify the treaty. Tanzania will become the 176th country to do so.

The Paris Agreement deals with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by con­sensus on 12 December 2015. US President, Donald Trump, announced in July 2017 his intention to withdraw from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest possible date for a US withdrawal to take effect is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Action in Maasai land dispute
Newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Hamis Kigwangalla, has terminated a 25-year-old hunting concession with a company owned by the United Arab Emirates royal family and launched investigations into the dealings of the company and former tourism ministers.

The Minister ordered the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to arrest and investigate Isaac Mollel, executive director of the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), for trying to bribe him and his predecessors. Dr Kigwangalla also called for the investigation of former ministers. This includes Lazaro Nyalandu, who was recently lambasted by the Minister after having defected from CCM to Chadema citing concerns at the government’s direction under President Magufuli.

Dr Kigwangalla said OBC will never be awarded another hunting licence, and suspended director of wildlife Alexander Songorwa for allegedly creating a syndicate of government officials in the ministry who have been compromised.

Prior to Kigwangalla’s appointed, long-running tensions between the Maasai community and government authorities in Loliondo and the Serengeti flared up in August 2017. An estimated 185 homes were burned in an act of forced eviction, according to a Danish NGO, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

“We must speak out about the land issue,” said Lilian Looloitai of Cords Limited, an Arusha-based rights group. “The government has not taken the proper measures to educate and communicate what their intentions are for the land. They are told, ‘You can’t cross this land, it belongs to the government, you can’t cross this land it belongs to investors’. We are not certain, we are not stable – as a community, as a society – and it is affecting our future.”

In 2012, there were claims that the government wanted to force Maasai pastoralists off their land to allow hunting activities on land bordering the Serengeti National Park. In response, the government shelved plans to create a “wildlife corridor” of 579 square miles. President Kikwete promised in 2014 that evictions would not take place.

Shortly after his appointment, the new Minister gave an interview to The Citizen newspaper that offered rights and conservation activists hope. “I heard about the violation of human rights that occurred in that area including houses of residents being torched and women being raped,” he said. “So, I have said as the minister I will not promote the dispute further as it only serves to entrench hatred of the people we seek to serve against their government.”

“Some livestock were seized on the villages’ land during an operation of establishing the buffer zone,” he added. “I said you seized these livestock in the game controlled area of Loliondo and you have not seized them according to the law. So, get them (livestock) back to the residents and I suspended that operation. The animals seized within the Serengeti National Park would be fined according to the law.”

Just days later, the OBC concession was terminated, Songorwa suspended and PCCB called in.

Bids invited for Steigler’s Gorge hydropower dam project
The Ministry of Energy and Minerals has invited bids for the construction of a hydropower project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, despite opposition from conservationists.

The government considers the project on the Rufiji river in the UNESCO-designated reserve as vital in its bid to diversify its energy mix and end chronic electricity shortages.

The project would more than double the country’s power generation capacity. With an installed capacity of at least 2,100MW, the new dam will dwarf other hydropower dams in Tanzania, including Kidatu (204MW), Kihansi (180MW), Mtera (80MW) and Pangani (68MW).

The conservation group, WWF, called on potential investors, banks and
construction companies not to participate in the project, at least until a full Strategic Environmental Assessment has been carried out. “WWF wants the true impacts of the dam to first be assessed and the World Heritage Committee to give its approval. The proposed dam would endanger the livelihoods of 200,000 local people and the reserve’s rare wildlife, such as elephants and black rhinos, would be placed under even greater threat.” “Companies who become involved in the project run the risk of significant reputational damage,” said WWF campaign manager. “We are asking investors, banks and those in the construction industry that work on dams to add Stiegler’s Gorge to their risk register.”

President Magufuli’s office said in July that the long-delayed hydroelectric plant would be built “to speed up the development of the country”.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

The past few months have been a quiet time for Tanzanian tourism and conservation with no new crises to face, but plenty of on-going struggles.

Perhaps with an eye to the potential damage done to the Tanzanian tourism industry by cost increases of 2016, the Tanzanian Tourism Board was reported by ATC News on 14 March as being very busy at this year’s annual ITB trade show in Berlin, signing marketing representation agreements with companies in the three key source markets of the US, UK and Germany.

The job of these companies will be to promote the tourist destinations of Tanzania & Zanzibar whilst also liaising with tour operators and travel media in those source markets. Up until this point, hotel owners and tour operators have been forced to shoulder this burden privately with little support from the TTB. No details are yet known because the companies are only due to submit their business plans to the Tourism Board in the middle of the year, but it will be interesting to see if Tanzania’s story begins to be told in a more professional and comprehensive manner.

Although Tanzania’s appeal as a tourist destination remains strong, significant negative news stories remain available for the consumer to digest.

The widespread failure of the short rains last year and the subsequent drought across parts of East Africa has brought famine to Sudan, conflict to Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau and tension to Tanzania. Interestingly, echoes of Laikipia can be found in the 3 January Citizen report by Lilian Lucas that described the lake of rain in Morogoro Region and the reported death of almost 4,000 cattle. Responding to the deaths, Regional Commissioner, Dr Kebwe Steven Kebwe, consoled pastoralists who had lost cattle but ordered police in the region to co-operate with local militias in removing pastoralists cattle from farms. He also ‘turned down’ a request from local pastoralists to graze cattle in Mikumi National Park, advising instead that the applicants tend their pasture better next year.

Readers of TA and the wider media are now sadly familiar with the threat to the sustainable management of Tanzania’s natural resources posed by poaching. Elephant, lion and giraffe have all featured in the headlines of late, so it is with a certain glum weariness that we add the grumbling hippo to this tragic list.

IPP Media reported how in December, National Geographic released a report entitled ‘Fighting the Underground Trade in Hippo Teeth’ which detailed how poaching gangs in Tanzania, and other African countries, are killing hippo for their teeth, which are then carved into intricate patterns and sold to yes, you guessed it, the Chinese market.

The last census of the Tanzanian hippo population was conducted in 2001, so very little is known about current numbers and any losses from either poaching or reduction of habitat due to human expansion. When asked about the threat, the Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Alexander Songorwa, stated that no hippo teeth can currently be exported legally from the country, except those acquired as a result of licenced sport hunting, but that the Department was soliciting funds and working on methodologies to combat any problem.

If the news of a new victim is always down-heartening, then reports of new initiatives in the protection of Tanzania’s natural heritage are always good to receive. This is particularly so when the news puts Tanzania on the cutting edge of technological development.

For the past few years, drones have been an increasing menace when deployed above the herds of the Great Migration, to use but one example. However, Bathawk Recon (http://bat-hawkrecon.com/) are proving that a much more sophisticated version can definitely be a force for good.

Bathawk Recon is a new private initiative based in northern Tanzanian established with the aim of using drone technology and surveillance techniques to oppose poaching operations across Tanzania and other African nations. Capable of flying during the day or the night, the drones can cover vast areas, protecting the wildlife below by spotting poaching teams and directing law enforcement teams into the affected area with pin-point accuracy. Furthermore, when contact is made with the poachers, the eye-in-the sky makes sure that no poachers are able to escape; all the while remaining unseen itself.

Have a look at the company’s videos; the potential is very exciting. One just hopes that should Bathawk Recon prove to be successful, their use will be supported wholeheartedly by the governments of Africa.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In the final weeks of the year, the wise and the experienced book their summer safaris to East Africa, knowing that when January arrives and the masses do the same, availability in the best camps will disappear quickly. This makes the period a good time to judge the health of the region’s tourism industry for the year ahead.

The cost of travelling from the UK to Tanzania is now about 20% more expensive than it was this time last year. The increase is due to the removal of the VAT on certain tourism goods and services in Tanzania in July, plus the weakening of Sterling against both the US dollar and the Euro following the unexpected political events in the UK and the US this year.

The Tanzanian government cannot therefore be blamed solely for the price rises, but the tax increases certainly haven’t helped the Tanzanian tourism industry. While it would take a catastrophe to stop the congregation of large numbers of vehicle in the Ngorongoro Crater, talking to camp owners and operators over the last few weeks does suggest a drop in booking numbers in the smaller, high-end camps.

At the same time, over the border in Kenya, owners and operators, sensing their neighbour’s weakness, have introduced a range of special offers and are reporting a distinct rise in booking numbers. Even the now traditional fear of violent disruption that comes with an election year seems not to be affecting business.

This is the current reality against which news stories concerning Tanzanian tourism and conservation must be considered. Tanzania will always be a fantastic place to visit, but if the ambitious growth targets of 20% year on year identified by the Tanzania Tourism Task Force in 2013 are to be met, then stakeholders and the Tanzanian government must not forget the ‘challenges’ that could prevent the desired growth – or even, in the worst case, cause a contraction of the industry.

Mr Richard Rugimbana, Executive Secretary of the Tanzanian Confederation of Tourism, listed these challenges in The Citizen on 14 July as ‘multiplicity of taxes, levies and fees… …and wanton destruction of natural assets.’

With this last challenge in mind, it is concerning to receive an update from Serengeti Watch reporting that funds have been set aside for the construction on a bitumen (sealed) road between the towns of Natta, Mugumu, and Loliondo, the first phase of the proposed road across the northern Serengeti. The report refers to an unspecified online government document, but if it proves to be accurate then the Serengeti as a complete ecosystem remains under threat.

In August, The Citizen published a timely reminder that Europe and the US is not the only target market for the Tanzanian tourism industry. The newspaper reported Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Director General Allan Kijazi describing a recent push to market Tanzania’s natural resources to the Chinese market by hosting 16 senior Chinese journalists from various media houses on a familiarisation trip to Mikumi National Park.

With China previously being more closely associated to the plague of the poaching of Tanzanian’s natural resources, it is interesting to see a more positive connection and to ponder how a growth in the number of Chinese tourists could affect the very make-up of the Tanzanian tourist industry, from the style of accommodation offered to the language skills of field guides. (The Citizen, Serengeti Watch)

In December, just as TA was going to press, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, took a personal interest in the fate of “Faru John,” a rare white rhino imported to Ngorongoro from South Africa some years ago. Faru John is reported to have personally sired 70% of the crater’s total white rhino population. “I know that the rhino was taken to Grumeti Reserve in Serengeti under the pretext of having the rare and endangered animal breed in the location,” said the Prime Minister. “But in reality, it is under ownership of a private lodge.” Later, a different story emerged: that the rhino had died after an illness and been buried. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe presented the Prime Minister with two horns said to be from John. Details of what exactly took place, including when and why John had been relocated and whether the dead rhino is indeed John, remain unclear and the Prime Minister has formed a probe team to investigate. Rhino horn is gram-for-gram more valuable than either gold or heroin. (Daily News, The Citizen)

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IS RUAHA RIVER DRYING UP?

Are the rivers in Tanzania at risk of drying up? The contested causes of environmental change

This is a summary of a presentation by Professor Bruce Lankford of the University of East Anglia at a seminar on 10 October 2016.

The facts are startling. In 2004 Bruce Fox, whose family run a safari and hotel company in the Ruaha National Park, pointed out that in 1993 the Great Ruaha River dried up in the dry season, with dire consequences for fish in the river, plants and animals in the game park, and the belief that it would affect electricity generation at the Mtera and Kidatu dams downstream (see below), which supply hydro-electricity to Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and many other parts of Tanzania. In more recent years, it has dried up every dry season. The Great Ruaha river drains an area the size of Wales and feeds into the Usangu or Ihefu wetland. Fox asserted that it was not a coincidence that the drying up had started after the World Bank and other donors paid for projects that increased the amount of abstraction of water for irrigation and domestic provision via so-called modernised concrete weirs which could divert much or all of the flow onto large areas of irrigated land in the Usangu plains – large state farms (now privatised) at Mbarali and Kapunga and many other smaller schemes. Other environmental concerns included the very large numbers of cattle in the Usangu plains, and one of the Government’s responses was to move them all out, in the erroneous belief it would ‘save water’.

Prof Lankford had already done work on the hydrology of the river, and was involved in two major research projects. With numerous other research projects taking place in the plains, Usangu has become one of the most researched areas in Africa. There were some important conclusions. One was that the amounts of water cattle could drink was not so much that it would make a significant difference to the flows, even in the dry season. Another was that the drying up had only marginal impact on the generation of electricity, because by far the greater part of the water flowed into the dams during the rainy seasons, and was stored in the two dams – only a little got through in the dry seasons anyway. Several minor causes of flow reductions were identified, including deforestation upstream, greater diversion of streams for small-scale irrigation upstream, and greater evaporation due to climate change, but none sufficient to make a big overall difference.

The accumulation, however, of water abstractions, including from small diesel pumps and the construction of the concrete weirs has had, over time, an impact. They allow large amounts of water, in some cases the whole flow, of tributaries to be diverted for irrigation. They were associated with water rights which gave irrigators rights to an absolute amount of water, even when there was little in a river. They were often not well managed, so that water taken out of rivers ran to waste, or was used in excess.

The conclusions, some of which are expressed in The Great Ruaha Restoration Campaign, involve rewriting water rights, prohibiting extraction when flows are low, and using weirs that divide the water proportionally, leaving some flowing downstream. Some progress is being made, but so far not sufficient to restore the flows through the Ruaha game park.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Value Added?
This June a familiar shadow fell across Tanzania’s tourism industry. For the past few years, in the run up to the annual budget, the Tanzania Government has threatened to remove the VAT exemption that previously applied to many aspects of the tourism industry’s goods and services. And every year, following a good argument and representations from tourism players to the highest levels of government, the threat has fallen away.

Until this year. As reported by Hugh Morris in The Daily Telegraph on 7th July, on 23rd June, Tanzanian tourism operators were notified by the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism that the exemption would be removed from 1 July.

The reaction from tourism operators was immediate as representatives of the industry pushed behind the scenes and in public for the government to reassess its position, citing the potential harm the changes will cause to the Tanzanian tourism industry and the potential result of making the country and uncompetitive and unattractive destination for long haul tourists.

The East African on 18th June contained a statement from the 330-member Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) that said the country was already charging 7% more than other regional states due to multiple taxes and that imposing the proposed VAT would cripple the $2 billion worth industry. Going onto explain how tour operators in Tanzania are currently subjected to 32 different taxes, 12 being business registration and regulatory licence fees, 11 annual duties for tourist vehicles and nine other miscellaneous fees.

Despite on-going protests and negative international publicity, by mid-July, no government climb down was announced and Tanzanian tour operators engaged in a confusing intercourse with their international agents with neither sure who was charging what and whether to pass on additional costs to final client. Cancellations began to be reported and Prof. Maghembe, the embattled Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism moved to allay fears about a fall in visitor numbers by saying to reporters (The Citizen on 15th July), “Go and see for yourself the long lines of vehicles bringing tourists into Ngorongoro and Serengeti. It does not in any way point to a decline.”

As the story developed and opposition seemed to grow, sources began
to indicate that the government would consider a compromise and reports began to circulate of leading industry figures considering approaching President Magufuli to plead their case.

If these stories suggested a conclusion to the story (for another year), they were wrong. On 19th July, the Citizen reported how President Magufuli used an address to newly promoted police officers to scotch any rumours of compromise and reiterated that all charges due must be paid saying that it was better to have 500,000 tourists who paid the correct charges, rather than 1,000,000 who do not.

President Magufuli has made probity and clarity of procedure the mark of his nascent presidency and his comments are understandable in that context. However, it is also not difficult to understand the frustration of all Tanzanians working in the highly competitive African tourism industry. They know that the Okavango Delta or the Maasai Mara, to name but two, have as much draw as the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater to many tourists who still regard Africa as a single country. The costs of going on safari are rising across the continent and so the end price of a package is assuming ever-increasing importance. The fear is that Kenya, which recently restored the VAT exemption on various tourism goods and services, will take a painfully large slice of tourist pie that had, until this year, been feeding so many Tanzanians.

A declining Tanzanian tourism industry will have three potentially serious consequences. The first consequence will be a significant drop in foreign currency earnings that will directly impact the national finances. The second will be loss of jobs as drivers’ services go unrequired and camps close. The third will be a setback for the cause of Tanzanian wildlife conservation – still, itself, reeling from the horrendous poaching epidemic of the last few years. In many parks and reserves it is only the presence of camps and the tourists they attract that protects these vital areas from poaching, habitat loss and unrestrained development. If camps don’t attract tourists then they become financially unviable and close, leaving the land vulnerable.

It is therefore understandable that many in the Tanzanian tourism and conservation sectors are despondent, but they are also frustrated, asking themselves why impose a new tax when so many existing ones go unpaid by so many?

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Are there any left?
This is the question that all who value the elephants of Tanzania will find themselves asking in the coming years if no concerted effort is made to tackle successfully the systematic slaughter currently affecting this most charismatic of species.

On 1st June, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania officially released the results of a nationwide survey of the elephant population, which estimates that there are between 40,400 and 46,600 elephants remaining. This represents a decline of 60% since the last census in 2009.

This authoritative study, funded by Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, and conducted in conjunction with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, included all of the seven key ecosystems where elephant have traditionally be found in large numbers.

The decline in elephant numbers in the Selous has been well docu­mented before now, with the historic low point being recorded in 2013 at 13,084. Happily, in 2014, the number was up slightly to 15,217, but, as Rob Muir, the Africa Programme Director for the Frankfurt Zoological Society is quoted as saying in an article in The Daily Telegraph on 19 July, this is probably due to the fact that their numbers have reached ‘a critical threshold’ and are so low that the poachers are unable to find them as easily as had been the case.

Alarmingly, this raises the spectre of the poachers turning their atten­tion to other locations with high populations – and the statistics bear this out. The 2014 census showed the other areas most hard hit to be the Malagarasi-Muyovozi and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems, where the populations were down 81% and 76% respectively.

Such statistics should prompt politicians into concerted action if they are to safeguard both Tanzania’s natural resources and the long term future of a tourism industry that depends upon the elephant and other threatened creatures like the rhino and lion. Instead, they often panic and say things that make the rest of the world sit up in surprise.

In this case, The Tanzania Daily News on the 4th of June reported how Natural Resources Minister Lazaro Nyalandu, said that TANAPA would launch an investigation into the 12,000 elephants “missing” from Ruaha.

However, it is unlikely that these elephants are merely “missing”. High carcass rates were recorded in all areas surveyed, which is an accepted method of determining abnormally high mortality rates. Additionally, not all carcases will be spotted: many are picked clean of flesh and hid­den by vegetation long before.

Certainly, many elephants have moved deep into the bush to avoid detection, or, as reported by a camp manager in Ruaha National Park who prefers to remain anonymous, clustering together in large numbers for perceived protection. Normally, in July, when water is still easily available, elephant will be dispersed and feeding peacefully in small family groups.

While the stability of population numbers in the Serengeti and Tarangire ecosystems provides a glimmer of hope, the Tanzanian Government should not under estimate the damage to the Tanzanian tourism indus­try that a widespread perception of unfettered poaching in the country will do. The African tourism industry is immensely competitive and the tourists will go to where they think the animals to be. Both The Guardian and The Telegraph picked up the story of the catastrophic decline in elephant numbers, following on from The Daily Mail and the BBC last year.

If the international media is consistent in its reporting on the conserva­tion failings in Tanzania, then it will take a lot more than some advertis­ing in Sunderland on a match day (Tanzaniainvest.com) to repair the damage.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In January, the Sixth Tanzania Economic Update was published by the World Bank. The tourism industry in Tanzania generated $1.9 billion by the end of November 2014, 22% of the value of all exports in that period. Although this is impressive, the number of tourists who visited Tanzania is just 11% of those that visited South Africa in 2013.

Considering the abundant natural resources in Tanzania, the World Bank believes that expansion of the tourism sector beyond northern Tanzania and Zanzibar to include southern destinations like Pangani, Ruaha and Katavi; plus stimulation of a domestic tourism market, could increase revenue to $16 billion a year in the next decade.

Echoing this need for expansion and investment, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, met representatives from the World Bank, the United States and Germany to explore ways to generate the $300 million that the Ministry have identified as being required to improve the infrastructure and tourism facilities in the Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha and Katavi National Parks. (The Guardian 27 January)

The US and German Ambassadors, plus Minister Nyalandu, had previously visited the Selous Game Reserve. This visit heralded the transfer of a significant amount of field equipment to the Reserve, improvement of infrastructure and the provision of training for rangers, all designed to assist in the fight against the poaching that currently affects the Selous. It can only be hoped that this continued international focus on combatting poaching of all kinds also affects the criminal figures con­trolling the trade in Tanzania who have so far avoided prosecution. (The Citizen 24 January)

Sustainable conservation of Tanzania’s natural resource is dependent upon the tourism industry. But Tanzania is not South Africa and so it is to be hoped that policy makers will develop a Tanzanian strategy for growth that draws upon international examples, but does not seek to copy them in their entirety.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

China and Tanzania’s Elephants
“The current situation for Tanzania’s elephant population is dire in the extreme. The country has lost half of its elephants in the past five years and two-thirds since 2006. Available evidence indicates it has since lost more elephants to poaching than any other country in Africa and is the biggest source of illegal ivory seized around the world. Its once mighty herds are being devastated by remorseless criminal organisations.”

So begins the chapter on Tanzania in the recently published report, ‘Vanishing Point’ by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in which the country is described as the source for the vast majority of the illegal ivory currently being traded between Africa and Asia. The EIA is an independent campaigning organisation whose carefully researched report (available to download in full at http://eia-international. org/wp-content/uploads/EIA-Vanishing-Point-lo-res1.pdf) has laid bare the extent of the threat to the natural resources of Tanzania.

The publication of the report created headlines, many of which focused on the link with China and the peak in the price of ivory in Mwenge Market, Dar es Salaam, when ships from the Chinese Navy were docked in harbour and when official delegations flew in.

‘Vanishing Point’ makes for sad, but impressive reading. As a report, it clearly documents, in great detail, the ‘epidemiology’ of the current poaching epidemic going back to its resurgence in the early years of the last decade following a period of recovering from the slaughter of the 1980’s. This in itself is a positive thing because, as any doctor will tell you, understanding a disease is the first step to curing the patient and, let there be no mistake, Tanzania is sick.

The current poaching crisis is linked to pervasive corruption through all levels of society, starting with the park ranger who divulges the details of a patrol for a few dollars, right up to the powerful individuals with connections to the highest levels of government who benefit the most from the trade in illegal ivory. Archaic and ineffective executive structures in the Ministry for Natural Resources & Tourism and other government bodies contribute to making law enforcement very difficult to achieve.

While this report deserved the extensive coverage it received, many of the articles it prompted did not clearly describe the context in which the report should be read. Much of what ‘Vanishing Point’ describes happened over the past 5 to 7 years. The authors make the point that since the end of 2013 (and the waves caused by Operation Tokomeza), life is not as easy for the poachers in Tanzania as it once was. President Kikwete and his government have stopped lobbying CITES to down-list the elephants of Tanzania and so legalise the trade in their ivory; the current Minister for Natural Resources & Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, has successfully secured $50 million worth of international anti-poaching assistance; and the revenue protection scheme has been re-instated for the Selous Game Reserve, a first step in providing adequate funding for sustained and effective anti-poaching operations.

As reported previously, 2013 was the first year in which more contraband ivory was seized inside Tanzania, rather than outside of the country. On 2 November, the Tanzania Daily News reported how Tanzania had been congratulated for the fact that 4 months had passed in the Selous without an elephant being poached (http://allafrica.com/stories/201411031541.html?aa_source=nwsltr-tanzania-en). Local sources are not keen to endorse this fact, but all agree that the numbers being lost have slowed.

On 24 October, the Daily News also reported the creation of a Rapid Response Team to combat poaching in the area of Ruaha National Park under the SPANEST Programme, Strengthening the Protected Areas Network in Southern Tanzania, a UNDP-funded project being operated by TANAPA, the Tanzania National Parks Authority.

With committed and concentrated action, and assistance from the international community, it should be within the capability of the Tanzanian Government to combat the disease of wildlife poaching once again, but they have to want to. Even if the land mass to protect is vast; ports and roads are few; the masterminds are even fewer in number. And it should be remembered, that if they fail, it is all Tanzanians that will suffer, not just the elephants. But the fight is a tough one that sadly has human casualties, such as those who lost their lives when a recently donated anti-poaching helicopter crashed in Dar es Salaam, as documented by Wolfgang T Home.

Those who deserve the blame in this sad story are not the Chinese masses who buy the ivory, hopefully they can be educated; nor the poor people at the bottom of the production pyramid, who risk all for a handful of dollars. Those who deserve blame – and punishment – are the few individuals who have used power and influence to pervert the course of justice, to gain (further) immense wealth, to destroy a shared birth right and to undermine the name of a nation.

Those who must be remembered and supported are the brave men and women who will not be corrupted and who risk their lives to protect the natural resources of Tanzania.

Tanzanian Government spokesman Assah Mwambene termed the EIA report ‘questionable’. The government accused the West of trying to spoil the good relationship between Tanzania and China and said that EIA had no proof.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Poaching
This dry season, tourist tales are of long day drives spent looking for elephant. Some find large groups clustered tightly; others are unlucky and return home without seeing one. It never used to be this way. Tanzania’s poaching epidemic is now much more than statistics: it is arguably a national disaster.

At the end of April, Tanzania was named in the Born Free USA/C4ADS ‘List of Shame’ as one of the top countries in Africa with the worst poaching records and the least effective government action to control the worst threat to natural resources in living memory.

Perhaps partly in response the growing international criticism of perceived governmental inaction to combat international poaching syndicates, the Tanzanian government hosted a Summit Conference to Stop Wildlife Crime and Advance Wildlife Conservation in May and signed a joint initiative with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to establish a new body for wildlife conservation. On 10 May, The Daily News reported the creation of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), to increase the revenue derived from Tanzania’s natural resource and to intensify conservation. Let us hope the two are not mutually exclusive.

The creation of TAWA was announced by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, who assured delegates to the conference that there would be zero tolerance towards the corrupt and inefficient elements involved in the protection of the country’s wildlife. In particular, 500 extra game rangers are to be hired and three helicopters await pilots currently training in South Africa.

Operation Tokomeza, the Tanzanian government’s attempt to combat poaching (see an article in TA108), continues to create headlines. In May, President Kikwete established an investigation into the Operation. Retired Justice Hamisi Msumi will head efforts to address the complaints of all those negatively affected by the Operation whilst also investigating claims that the Operation was sabotaged. Meanwhile, Tokomeza II continues, but without the early successes, or alleged excesses, of the original Operation.

Putting to one side where the individual culpability lies for the dramatic loss of natural resources through poaching, The Citizen on 7 July draws on the international media to provide a clear explanation for the driving force behind the trade. It outlined how the price of African ivory in China has tripled over the past three years, so that the cost of ivory in China is now ten times the cost in Africa, a profit margin that is driving corruption, crime and conflict across Africa.

The poaching epidemic in Tanzania must be confronted and stopped for the sake of the species targeted. Once they are gone, they will be extremely difficult to reintroduce. The continued existence of elephant and rhino has an existential value, but it also has an immense economic value – a fact should also be remembered by the Tanzanian government when considering other areas of legislation that affects the tourism industry.

Tax and Tourism
In June, in the run up to the release of the national budgets in East Africa, intense lobbying was carried out by the Tanzanian tourism industry with government officials to prevent, or adjust the timeline for, the repeal of certain VAT exemptions covering tourism goods and services that would have resulted in an increase to the average Tanzanian holiday package of about 10%.

Whilst the impact of such a rise on the numbers of tourists visiting Tanzania in the medium to long term is debatable, the issue was that the change was due to come into effect on 1 July 2014, days after the deci­sion and at the start of the peak travel season. The potential increased costs would have to be passed on to clients, risking widespread cancellations and Tanzania’s good reputation in the African tourism market.

The Tanzanian government of course has the right to determine its monetary policy as it wishes, but tourism operators were left pleading for some forewarning and an understanding of the realities of the ultra- competitive market that is African tourism.

In the event, the decision was delayed until October, leaving the operators waiting.

Serengeti Road
On 23 June eTN Global Travel Industry News reported that the East African Court of Justice had ruled against the Tanzanian government’s plans to construct a bitumen road across the Serengeti National Park, declaring it to be ‘unlawful’. Although celebrations broke out in court and across the internet, it should be noted that the ruling only specified a ‘bitumen road’, leaving open the prospect of a gravel road following the same route. So the battle goes on for the future of the Great Migration, the integrity of the Serengeti National Park and the reputation of Tanzania as a leader in the field of African conservation.

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