Elephants in Tanzania

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Village Meetings

Rainbow light strikes pink flocks of distant flamingoes on plains of East Africa
This was not my first village meeting. In fact, I can’t remember how many times I have sat, surrounded by the Masai in their red shukas, discussing land, poaching, charcoal burning and conservation.

This was the first meeting, however, for Liz, my niece and protégé.

We had been called to Ol Tukai village to talk about our leased area and the conservation development work we are doing there.

We left Arusha to arrive for a meeting starting at 10 a.m. We sat outside the village offices, greeting the tribal elders, elected officials and the women as they slowly arrived over the next four hours.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Positive Steps at Wildlife Reserve's One-Year Mark

Floodplains of Ol Tukai Manyara, with views of the Rift Valley escarpment — part of the
Radilen and Manyara ecosystem that provides protected habitat to wildlife

Wednesday, April 2 will probably go down as the most rewarding day in all my years living and working in East Africa.

This was the day the Monduli District Government met with our East African Safari and Touring Company, other private investors, wildlife NGOs and the six Masai communities we work with to discuss the new Radilen Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

After this meeting, I can at last announce that things are moving ahead in a very positive way.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What's an Elephant Worth?

African bull elephant, Tarangire
A lone bull elephant, Tarangire, Tanzania. What's his life worth to a poacher, a hunter, a local community?

Imagine a world without elephants, the giant, majestic architects that shape the African savannah.

I’m not talking about the loss of just another species, something we’ve seemingly become immune to in recent years as each new extinction is catalogued. I’m imagining a loss that will change forever a whole continent — not only how we envisage that continent, not only the ecology of a landscape, but also the very economic and social fabric of many African nations.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Elephant Wars

The link between terrorism and the poaching of elephants in East Africa is a cause for global concern. Monica Medina’s recent article in The New York Times, (“The White Gold of Jihad”) shows us it's not enough to let African countries fight this scourge on their own. 
Nor is pouring millions of dollars into wildlife aid projects sufficient to stop the travesty that threatens unimaginable suffering and ultimately, extinction of one of the Earth’s last remaining giant land mammals.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Death of an Elephant

Bull elephant killed by poachers in Tanzania, 2013
Mzee and Bernard Shirima, at Naitolia Camp, with the carcass of a young bull elephant killed by poachers on September 27

Only ten days ago, this young bull elephant came into our safari camp at Naitolia, Tanzania to die. Mad with pain and terror, he was fleeing poachers who had shot him for his tusks, as he and other young bulls were feeding on open land near the town of Makuyuni, north of Tarangire National Park.

Maybe he knew the forest was a place of safety where the men with guns could not follow. Perhaps it was familiarity that drove him there — he and his kin may well have browsed peacefully in this spot since they were calves, 20 years or so ago. We will never know. What we do know is that late on Friday, September 27, the elephant finally succumbed, dying in the place he had sought sanctuary.

Who can protect Tanzania's Wildlife?

In the last five to ten years, there has been a movement away from the community conservation that I believe in so strongly.

Firstly there is the move by ex-pats, foreign investors and even a well known wildlife NGO towards the Southern African model of private game reserves and ranches. The second is the move by the Wildlife Department to disenfranchise the local Masai  owners by legislating against communities being able to directly benefit from wildlife on their village lands.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Masai as Conservationists

Masai girl, Tanzania
Young Masai girl, Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Reports of Masai “corruption” regarding African wildlife are creating confusion amongst tourists and the general public. In this blog, I want to address the rumours and try to explain what’s really happening.