SELOUS GAME RESERVE, TANZANIA. To combat the very serious threat of poaching in the Selous Game Reserve, the governments of the United States and Germany transferred on Wednesday a significant amount of field equipment for use by Tanzanian game wardens patrolling the reserve. The equipment included small and large tents, torches, maps, binoculars, cameras, uniforms, and boots. In addition, the German Government announced support toward improvements to infrastructure such as roads, airstrips and housing for game rangers within the game reserve, while the U.S. Government has supplied the expertise of U.S Marine instructors to train game wardens on patrolling techniques and vehicle maintenance.
The event, attended by U.S. Ambassador Mark Childress and German Ambassador Egon Kochanke, and hosted by the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources & Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, served to not only mark the equipment handover, but more importantly to emphasize the importance of coordination of anti-poaching efforts among international partners, between the public and private sectors, and within the Government of Tanzania. The U.S. equipment and services are 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. Representing NGO conservation efforts was Gerald Bigurube, Tanzania Programme Manager from the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
Minister Nyalandu opened the press conference by saying “This is a very special day for the Selous Game Reserve and the effort of the Government of Tanzania in marching toward victory in the battle against poaching.”
Ambassador Childress reinforced Minister Nyalandu’s comments by saying “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.” In addition, Ambassador Childress praised the Paul Allen Foundation for funding a new VHF system that will allow game scouts to communicate across secure channels and coordinate their anti-poaching efforts. He also commended the Hans Jorg Wyss Foundation for its ongoing support of the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s efforts in the Selous.
German Ambassador Kochanke said “The current poaching crisis threatens not only the survival of elephants and other wildlife in the area, but also the great potential of the Selous Game Reserve for economic development in the country as a whole, and for the districts adjacent to the Reserve in particular.”
Mr. Bigurube from the Frankfurt Zoological Society said “Foreign tourists travel at great expense to Tanzania and spend thousands of dollars to view this wildlife. This is our national commodity, and I call on every Tanzanian to protect it, because every Tanzanian has a role to play.”
Poaching is an increasingly serious threat in the Selous Game Reserve, in particular the poaching of elephants for ivory. Controlling this problem is difficult due to a number of factors including the sheer size of the Selous and lack of clear boundaries, as well as limited manpower and equipment to monitor and manage activities in the reserve. 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. Between 2010 and 2013, 17,797 kilograms of illegally exported Tanzanian ivory (4692 elephant tusks) was seized at overseas ports. Solutions to the poaching of Tanzania’s wild elephant population are challenging and complex, but the U.S. and German governments are committed to cooperating with the Government of Tanzania, the private sector, and other domestic and international partners to preserve this natural and globally important treasure.