Tanzania (WWF) –One of Africa’s oldest reserves could see its elephant population decimated by 2022 if urgent measures are not taken to stem industrial-scale poaching, according to a new analysis by WWF.
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania’s largest protected area, was home to one of the greatest concentrations of African elephants on the continent, but rampant ivory poaching has seen the population reduced by 90 per cent in fewer than 40 years. Nearly 110,000 elephants once roamed the savannahs, wetlands and forests of Selous, but now only about 15,000 remain in the ecosystem.
The analysis, produced for WWF by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, shows how the loss of Selous’ elephants would have a negative effect on Tanzania’s nature based economy, putting the livelihoods of 1.2 million people at risk. Travel and tourism in Selous generate US$6 million annually, and the industry represents a combined yearly contribution of US$5 billion to the GDP of Tanzania, which holds world renowned assets such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park.
“Selous is the only natural World Heritage site in southern Tanzania and one of the largest wilderness areas left in Africa. Its value to Tanzania – and indeed to the rest of the world – is dependent on its large wildlife populations and pristine ecosystems,” said WWF-Tanzania Country Director Amani Ngusaru.
In 2014, UNESCO placed Selous on its List of World Heritage in Danger due to the severity of elephant poaching. At the recent peak of the crisis, an average of six Selous elephants were being gunned down by criminal syndicates each day.
UNESCO also has expressed concerns about other potentially harmful industrial activities threatening the reserve, such as mining, oil and gas exploration, and dam construction. Selous’ status will be on the global agenda again at the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee next month.
In order for Selous to be removed from UNESCO’s in danger list, WWF is calling for greater effort in combatting wildlife crime, an assessment of the impacts of proposed industrial activities, investment in sustainable tourism infrastructure, and an equitable distribution of benefits to nearby communities.
“Achieving zero elephant poaching is the first step to setting Selous on a path toward fulfilling its sustainable development potential. Together, we must ensure that this natural treasure is protected from harm,” Ngusaru said.
This report prepared by World Wildlife Fund.