Swift actions needed to address human-wildlife conflicts (Tanzania) IPP Media January 8, 2021
In the evening of October 31, 2020, a secondary school teacher, Rogers Wilson from Kwangu Secondary School in Kwakoa ward, Mwanga District, Kilimanjaro Region was trampled to death after a herd of elephants invaded the village.
The elephants came from Mkomazi National Park.
The Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania, Dr Maurus Msuha confirmed the incident assuring that the elephants would be soon driven out of the area.
This was not the first time as in October 2019, four people were killed while seven were injured by rampaging elephants in Toloha and Ngulu villages in Mwanga district.
Effects are far reaching. Whenever attacks like these happen, people lock themselves in their houses for fear of these wild animals, reducing working hours, hence impacting their economy. The pressure on family members is obvious in cases where bread winners are killed.
“They are killing us, please help,” a villager, Sauda Kwayu was quoted recently when reacting to an incident where a colleague was killed by an elephant.
Reports of elephants and other wild animals such as monkeys, crocodiles and hippos wreaking havoc on villages, destroying food crops and residential areas are now regular news.
The challenge is not unique to Tanzania as reports shows that over 100 people are killed by elephants each year in India while over 200 people have been killed by the big animals in Kenya over the last 7 years.
With the third largest elephant population in the world, the potential of this challenge to grow in Tanzania is huge. The country’s elephant’s number is estimated at 42,871, according to the Great Elephant Census of 2016.
Experts cite various reasons toward increasing human wild animal conflicts. Some of them are global warming and environmental destruction that drive wild animals out of their habitats to areas inhabited by humans. Multiplication of wild animals due to successful conservation efforts also contributes to the problem. Increasing population that leads to humans encroaching on wild animals’ habitats for agriculture and other activities lead to conflicts with animals.
Another reason is that many costs of conservation are borne locally, particularly by poor communities, while benefits accrue globally.
Emmanuel Stephens, a researcher based in Katavi Region said that as long as humans and wildlife continue to interact, conflict is inevitable and this calls for a need to develop strategies which offer a balanced and systematic way to mitigate harmful effects to endangered species while still meeting needs of the local communities.
In the case of elephants, he notes that the most commonly advocated methods include use of beehive fences and chili fences. “These methods provide extra benefits to the farmers for instance bee products (honey and wax) and extra chili can be sold to generate alternative source of income which compensate at least partially for crop damage,” he added.
Dr Sayuni Mariki-Mrita, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Wildlife Management at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) said that sharing costs and benefits of conservation with those affected mostly by wild animals can greatly help in reducing human wild-animals conflicts. “The direct benefits should outweigh the costs. This will increase tolerance and enhance human-wildlife co-existing,” Dr Sayuni who is one of the leading researchers in the field advises.
However, the researcher adds that using proven workable mitigation measures to reduce negative impacts may not be enough, but the careful assessment of each method is important for understanding its effectiveness, gaps in knowledge on its usage, and the specific contexts where it is appropriate to deploy.
The researcher notes that empowering communities to initiate and manage mitigation for their resources and themselves, and to increase their resilience to wildlife impacts is crucial while communities bordering protected areas should be encouraged to adherence to wise land use planning that meets the needs of people and wildlife in a sustainable way.
Also equally important in reducing such conflicts are proper management of buffer zones, and restoration and management of wildlife corridors.
Raising awareness among communities (children and adults) on how they can empower themselves to reduce the negative consequences of living alongside wildlife is important.
The National Human-wildlife Management Strategy (2020-2024) approved by the government in October 2020 is commendable. Also appreciated are efforts by the government to develop the National Priority Corridor Action Plan to support the regulations on wildlife corridors, buffer and dispersal areas.