Saturday, June 06, 2015

Tanzania facing an elephant disaster

Tanzania's elephant population has suffered a catastrophic decline in recent years, with numbers plummeting from an estimated 109,000 in 2009 to just 43,000 in 2014, according to the latest figures released by the government.

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, said that it was highly likely that the decline was caused by poaching for ivory.

“The government’s figures show that Tanzania lost tens of thousands of elephants over the past decade,” said Steven Broad, TRAFFIC’s Executive Director. “It is incredible that poaching on such an industrial scale has not been identified and addressed before now.”

This news confirms concerns raised by TRAFFIC in 2013 in a report from the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), which pointed to a profound shift in ivory smuggling routes with Tanzania's Indian Ocean ports of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar becoming the principle exit points for vast quantities of ivory.

Latest information compiled by TRAFFIC from seizure records indicates that more ivory — at least 45 tonnes — has flowed from Tanzania to international markets in Asia than from any other African country since 2009.

A breakdown of elephant numbers across the country presented by Minister Nyalandu showed some smaller elephant populations had increased significantly, notably the elephant population in the famed Serengeti, which rose from 3,000 to 6,000 animals. However, beyond the most heavily visited tourist locations on the country's northern circuit, elephant numbers were significantly down.

Of particular concern is the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, where numbers fell from over 34,600 in 2009 to an estimated 8,272 in 2014. According to government figures, around 12,000 disappeared since 2013.

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