Tents, torches, maps, binoculars, cameras, uniforms and yes, boots, are just the start of a joint action by the American and German governments to combat rampant poaching in the Selous, the largest and oldest game reserve on the Continent.
Additionally, US Marines will be training Tanzanian Game Wardens on patrolling techniques and vehicle maintenance and Germany has pledged to support infrastructure including roads, airstrips and housing in the reserve.
“This is a big day, but no one day can turn the tide in the battle against poaching. We need a lot of days like this,” says US Ambassador to Tanzania Mark Childress.
Flanked by German Ambassador Egon Kochanke, Tanzania Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources Lazaro Nyalandu and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) program manager Gerald Bigurube, the trio unveiled the cache of supplies at Mtemere Gate in the Selous on Wednesday, January 21.
The handover is part of a larger Tanzania-wide anti-poaching and wildlife conservation program worth $40 million over the next four years, while the German anti-poaching and wildlife conservation program in Tanzania is worth $51 million (2012 to 2016), including $21 million for the Selous.
Poaching, mostly of elephants for ivory, has become an increasingly serious threat in the Selous Game Reserve made difficult by it’s sheer size and lack of clear boundaries.
An aerial wildlife census in 2013 funded by Germany determined elephant numbers had declined from over 39,000 in 2009 to just over 13,000 in 2013. According to the US Embassy, between 2010 and 2013, 17,797 kilograms of illegally exported Tanzanian ivory (4692 elephant tusks) was seized at overseas ports.
“Every Tanzanian has a role to play,” says Bigurube, noting that tourists travel at great expense and spend thousands of dollars to view wildlife in Tanzania.
“This is our national commodity, and I call on every Tanzanian to protect it.”