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TANZANIA (eTN) – Looking at best options to save elephants in Tanzania, the Tanzania National Parks has launched a special program to monitor elephant movements in Ruaha National Park through support from yhe United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Okay, so it won’t really direct the elephants on where to go like cars equipped with GDS. But now that we have your attention

The Satellite Elephant monitoring started with the tagging of 30 elephants in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania’s biggest wildlife protected tourist park and most famous for big herds of elephants.

UNDP in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has committed funds to support the Satellite Elephant monitoring in Ruaha National Park and Rungwa Game Reserve, commonly known as the Great Ruaha Landscape, through the use of a satellite system.

Tanzania National Parks Director General Mr. Allan Kijazi said the main goal of monitoring elephant through satellite in the Great Ruaha landscape is to obtain information on the seasonal movements of elephants within the area.

UNDP has contracted the World Elephant Centre to tag 30 elephants with satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) collar units to monitor activity patterns, as well as local and regional movements.

All units will have a built-in mortality sensor, in case a fitted elephant is killed, so that a researcher will be informed. The 30 Satellite GPS units will be distributed among core areas, wildlife management areas, and game reserves around the Ruaha ecosystem.

Similarly, information on the seasonal movement patterns of elephants will provide information on the role of dispersal in maintaining Greater Ruaha elephant populations which will help rangers to plan more informed patrols outside the core protected area.

Located in the southern highlands of Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is rated as the wildest safari park and largest protected wildlife park in East Africa, covering 22,000 square kilometers full of African wildlife.

Ruaha National Park has a higher concentration of elephants than any park in East Africa, and is home to over 450 bird species. It is also famous for both Greater and Lesser Kudu, and Sable and Roan antelopes which can catch the eyes of tourists visiting this park.

Under community conservation and a participative initiative, there is a successful local community wildlife conservation program known as MBOMIPA which is made up of 19 villages of neighbors to Ruaha Park.

Covering an area of 777 kilometers, MBOMIPA runs a tourist hunting project under the coordination of the Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) program, designed and managed by the Wildlife Division.

MBOMIPA is Tanzania’s leading community wildlife management association whose mission is to manage an effective and sustainable wildlife management system under community authority and responsibility in the Pawaga-Idodi Wildlife Management Area, neighbor to Ruaha National Park.

Through such an initiative, MBOMIPA is committed to promote sustainable management of all natural and cultural resources as a means of enhancing local economic development and contributing to the reduction of poverty in the villages which it operates.

Tourists to Ruaha National Park get a chance to carry out photographic safaris outside the park through visits to villages under MBOMIPA. They get involved in various cultures and ways of life which the local communities practice, thereby contributing to poverty reduction and raising incomes of the local communities.

Hotel and accommodation investments are, on the other hand, being attracted outside the park in villages under MBOMIPA.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the community-based natural resource management is key to a long-term solution to elephant poaching and illegal wildlife trade, as well as poverty reduction strategies.

Community-based initiatives must be given the support they deserve to generate incomes for rural people and help diversify incomes through tourism and other service sectors.

The UNDP and Global Environment Facility conservation project known as SPANEST has also been established, focusing on conserving the wildlife and landscape of Tanzania’s Southern circuit, including protected areas in Ruaha, Kitulo, Mpanga-Kipengere, and Mount Rungwe.

Through UNDP support, the project undertook a census that showed a notable decline in elephant populations in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, falling from 31,625 elephants in 2009 to just 20,090 in 2013.

UNDP support enabled the purchase of graders, which the park management has started to use to improve roads. This access will open the area for enhanced tourism opportunities, better security, and facilitating regular patrols for anti-poaching. Other work has been done to provide training to park rangers in the area of a walking safari, as well as various communication devices for the park rangers.

UNDP is committed to supporting initiatives against wildlife trade by helping Tanzania in governance, the rule of law, poverty eradication, and environment protection support to governments and with other partners.

The social and economic benefits of conservation of wildlife in Tanzania’s parks and reserves should be going to local communities and the nation. Community-based tourism, jobs in wildlife and park management, and government revenue-sharing from tourism can all help reduce poverty and inequality, including for women, youth, and marginalized groups.

UNDP already works closely with partners in a number of African countries to design and implement public, private, and community-level partnerships which co-manage wildlife resources.

Community-based initiatives must be given the support they need to deliver incomes to rural people through tourism and other sectors. If local communities are kept out of the equation, however, they may turn a blind eye to poaching, or, driven by poverty, local people may be recruited into poaching gangs and organized syndicates.