- The vast plains of the Serengeti comprise 1.5 million hectares of savannah.
- It harbors the largest remaining unaltered migration of 2 million wildebeests plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras.
- They all engage in a 1,000-km-long annual circular trek spanning the 2 adjacent countries of Tanzania and Kenya, followed by their predators.
Under the auspices of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), tourism investors have dished out 150 million shillings (US$65,300) to boost a de-snaring program, redoubling their commitment in a bloody war against the silent but deadly poaching that takes place in the Serengeti.
The Permanent Secretary of Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry, Dr. Allan Kijazi, says the once poverty-driven subsistence of poaching has slowly but surely graduated into large-scale and commercial endeavors, putting Tanzania’s flagship national park of Serengeti under renewed pressure after a 5-year stint of a lull.
This forgotten form of poaching responsible for mass wildlife killings in the Serengeti has prompted tourism stakeholders to chip in and establish a de-snaring program in mid-April 2017, under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model involving Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), and themselves.
Handing over the Sh150 million check from TATO to the FZS, implementing the de-snaring program, the Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, extolled the stakeholders for putting their money where their mouths are.
“I’m sincerely thanking TATO for this incredible initiative to support [this] anti-poaching drive. This move will guarantee the safety of our precious national park and the priceless wildlife within,” Dr. Ndumbaro noted. He vowed to work hand in hand with TATO in furthering the conservation drive and developing the tourism industry.
TATO Chairman, Mr. Wilbard Chambullo, said that before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, tour operators used to voluntarily contribute a single dollar they received per tourist, but owing to the wave of the pandemic, the investors had to close their facilities and send all their staff back home.
In its painstaking efforts to survive, TATO, under United Nations Development Program (UNDP) support, put up health infrastructures such as COVID-19 sample collection centers at Seronera and Kogatende in the Serengeti where the organization introduced Sh40, 000 and Sh20,000 fees per sample from TATO and non-TATO members respectively.
“We, in TATO, unanimously resolved to donate the money we’ve collected from these COVID-19 sample collection centers to boost the de-snaring program,” Mr. Chambullo explained, amidst applause from the audience.
The feat has, among other factors, been possible, thanks to the trinity partnership between UNDP, TATO, and the government through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism as well as the Ministry of Health.
“I’m very grateful that the money we are donating today for the de-snaring program is among … the milestone[s] of our partnership with the UNDP, TATO, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, as well as Ministry of Health, in boosting tourism recovery in Tanzania,” said TATO CEO, Mr. Sirili Akko.
The De-snaring Program, the first of its kind, implemented by the FZS – an International renowned conservation organization with over 60 years of experience – is designed to remove the widespread snares set by local bush meat mongers to trap mass wildlife within the Serengeti and beyond.
Commenting, the Country Director for Frankfurt Zoological Society, Dr. Ezekiel Dembe, expressed gratitude to the tour operators for integrating the conservation concept into their business model.
“This is a new norm to our business community to contribute towards [the] conservation drive. Our slogan for the last 60 years has been and will remain to be, Serengeti shall never die, and I’m proud that tour operators are now joining our efforts,” Dr. Dembe concluded.
Commenced mid-April 2017, the de-snaring program has been successfully managed to remove a total of 59,521 wire snares, saving 893 wild animals to date.
The FZS study indicates that the wire snares are responsible for the mass killing of 1,515 wild animals in the Serengeti National Park in the span of April 2017 up to September 30, 2021.
Once subsistence poaching in Serengeti had become large-scale and commercial, Africa’s flagship national park fell under renewed pressure to address the problem after a lull of 2 years. Wildlife in the Serengeti, a World Heritage site, had started to recover from a decade-long ivory poaching spree, which almost brought the elephant and rhino populations to their knees.
The Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) conducted the “Great Elephant Census” in 7 key ecosystems from May to November 2014 when it was discovered that the “poachers’ bullets” had assassinated 60 percent of the elephants’ population in just 5 years.
In actual figures, the final results of the census revealed that Tanzania’s elephant population dropped from 109,051 in 2009 to merely 43,521 in 2014, representing a decline of 60 percent over the period under review.
The most likely cause of this decline was a dramatic upsurge in poaching in both controlled and open areas, which Tanzania has been struggling to contend with in recent years albeit with insufficient resources and technologies.
As if that is not enough, the probably forgotten and silent but deadly bush meat poaching within Serengeti Park is now putting the world’s greatest annual wildlife migration across East Africa’s plains under a new threat.