Poaching of elephants at Tarangire decreasing, park authorities reveal


African bush elephants at Lake Manyara National Park
 ELEPHANT poaching in Tarangire National Park has gone down for the past two years due to various measures to contain the rampant wildlife killings.
Park tourism officer, Geoffrey Mboma, said that between July 2014, and early this year only four were killed by suspected poachers.
 
The killing of elephants in Tarangire National Park for their tusks has been largely contained, according to the official.
 
Falling within the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, the wildlife sanctuary is reported to have the largest number of jumbos compared to other animal sanctuaries in the country.
 
The park is home to nearly 5,000 jumbos and is also famous for tree-climbing pythons.
 
He said that indiscriminate killing of animals for their trophies has also been contained due to intensified patrol and involvement of the local communities in conservation.
 
The chief park warden, Stephano Qolli, stressed on the need for the wildlife corridors linking Tarangire with other protected areas to be safeguarded in order to minimise the impact of human activities inside and around the park.
He said the animal pathways, mainly linking Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park, have been turned into human settlements while livestock grazing inside the park was now common despite being prohibited.
 
The park official expressed concern that increased human activities may be one of the reasons for the declining number of wild animals in the park and the adjacent protected areas.
 
“Once there is an ecological disturbance through increase in human activities, the animals would simply migrate to other areas or get killed when they wander into the villages,” he pointed out, without giving any statistics.
 
He pleaded with the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) and the relevant ministries, including Natural Resources and Tourism as well as Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to coordinate on how to address invasion of protected areas by livestock keepers and farmers, saying it defeated the whole purpose of conservation.
 
Tarangire is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania after Ruaha, Serengeti, Mikumi, Katavi and Mkomazi. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses through the park, being the only source of water for wild animals during dry seasons. 
 
It covers an area of 2,850 square kilometres and recorded 161,792 visitors in 2012. It was established in 1970.During the dry season thousands of animals migrate to the Tarangire National Park from Manyara National Park.
 
It lies a little distance to the south east of Lake Manyara and covers an area of approximately 2,850 square kilometres (1,100 square miles.).
 
  The elephant population in the country fell to 43,000 in June 2015 from 109,000 in 2009.  
 
In February, this year an investigation into the death of a British helicopter pilot who was looking for poachers near Serengeti National Park had uncovered a criminal poaching ring led by a rogue intelligence officer, the Tanzanian authorities said recently.
 
After a weeklong manhunt that involved house-to-house searches in villages surrounding the reserve, at least nine people have been arrested in connection with the death of the pilot, including the suspect, a former police officer who used his current position as an intelligence officer with a regional conservation authority to help the poachers travel undetected, said Lazaro Mambosasa, the regional police commissioner. With the arrests, the authorities said, the ring has been dismantled.
 
The pilot, Roger Gower, 37, was shot on Jan. 29 while conducting anti-poaching surveillance over the Maswa Game Reserve. He and a colleague, Nick Bester, came across a newly killed elephant and circled back to take a closer look, and their helicopter was shot at by poachers who were apparently still at the scene, the police have said. A bullet from a .458 hunting rifle punctured the floor of the helicopter and ripped through   Gower’s leg and shoulder. He managed to land the helicopter but died from his injuries before help could arrive.
 
Among those arrested was the gunman, Njile Gonga, 28, who led the police to the rifle, hidden on his roof, and to tusks he had taken from the elephant,   Mambosasa said.
 
The country’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit teamed up with the police and the local authorities to find the suspects, one of whom was chased hundreds of kilometers to the Tanzanian capital, Dodoma.
“We took this very seriously,” said Maj. Gen. Gaudence Milanzi, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. “We put a lot of effort into catching these poachers.”
 
Poaching is a serious problem in Tanzania. According to the most recent elephant census, published in June 2015, the country has 43,000 elephants, down from 109,000 in 2009.
 
In November 2014, the country formed a task force to investigate poaching. The task force has made a number of high-profile arrests in recent months, including that of Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese citizen had been suspected of exporting thousands of tons of ivory to China. Since the task force was formed, it has made more than 1,000 arrests.
 
  Gower worked for the Friedkin Conservation Fund and grew up in Birmingham, England. He trained as an accountant, but on the day he qualified for the job, he quit and started traveling the world, his brother Max Gower said in an interview. His travels eventually took him to Florida, where he trained to become a helicopter pilot. “He was very much his own man,” his brother said.
 
  Gower had worked in East Africa for the last seven years, spending time in Kenya and Tanzania. “Going to Tanzania, he had an opportunity to fly and look after animals and to watch animals, and it was a lot of things he loved all rolled into one,” Max Gower said.
 
  Gower’s body was returned to England. The family has set up a crowd funding campaign in his honour that has already raised more than 50,000 pounds, or $72,000, money they hope will be used to help combat poaching in Tanzania.
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