- Alphonce Msigwa* and David Wolking
Could we live in a world without elephants? That might be an easier question to answer if elephants are not part of your life, your landscape, or your culture. But in Tanzania and throughout Africa, elephants (tembo or ndovu in Kiswahli) are very much part of day-to-day life. Ecological engineers, they prune our forests, disperse seeds and plant trees, blaze trails and make firebreaks, occasionally eat from our gardens, and grace the labels of our favorite beers. But a world without elephants may soon become a reality without change, change that the Wildlife Connection and other conservation groups are working to achieve.
Wildlife Connection is a non-governmental organization in Pawaga and Idodi Divisions in Iringa Rural District. On 4 October 2013, the NGO organized the local event for the March for Elephants campaign in Iringa town to show their compassion for elephants and opposition to the enormous killing and destruction of elephants in Southern Tanzania’s protected areas, including Ruaha National Park and MBOMIPA Wildlife Management Area. Many stakeholders were invited to this special event in Iringa, and as part of the campaign, 40 other big cities around the world held similar marches.
The HALI project was invited to the march, as one of the stakeholders dealing with health for animals, both domestic and wild. Project Coordinator, Dr. Goodluck Paul and other staff including Asha Makweta, Elizabeth Komba and Amani Zacharia joined other stakeholders from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Udzungwa Elephant Project (UEP), Southern Tanzania Protected Area Network (SPANEST), Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), Tanzania Association for Tour Operators (TATO) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to fight against the brutality against elephants.
Some statistics, shared by the guest of honor, Shadow Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Mr. Peter Msigwa show that elephant poaching is a big threat to these animals, and is responsible for a massive decrease in elephants numbers from 2,000,000 in 1971 to 130,000 today, with major social, ecological and economic impacts. In a nutshell, a total of 33,000 elephants were killed from 2010 to 2013 in Tanzania, and if this rate of poaching increases or is sustained, in seven years elephants will be locally extinct in Tanzania, a disaster to the country economy, which depends heavily on wildlife and safari tourism and a devastating blow to our culture which has shared this landscape with elephants since the dawn of human history.
These statistics puzzled the HALI staff and our team is now working to prepare posters and work to raise awareness of these issues, and to share their concerns about elephants and wildlife, their health, ecology, and survival.
*Alphonce Msigwa is a wildlife professional, journalist and conservation enthusiast working with the HALI project on the USAID-funded Feed the Future Livestock Innovation Lab Collaborative Research Support Program project. He has published over 30 articles in Tanzania wildlife magazines and journals, and looks forward to contributing more to the HALI blog, especially on livelihood and conservation issues.
To learn more about the March for Elephants, visit their main site here.
To learn more about elephant poaching and threats to elephant conservation, visit the 96 Elephants Campaign.
To help protect elephants and conserve vital elephant habitat in the Ruaha ecosystem and surrounding areas, consider a donation to the Wildlife Connection.