Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Save remaining elephants in Tanzania's largest game reserve: WWF

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), the leading global conservation organization, on Monday appealed to the government of Tanzania and international community to take urgent measures to protect the remaining elephants in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve from poaching.

"If the historic trend of industrial scale poaching continues, elephants could disappear from Selous within six years," said the report released by WWF in the east African country's commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

The report-Saving Selous: African Icon Under Threat-added that since 1976, Selous has lost an average of 2,500 elephants annually.

"If this trend continues, elephants could vanish from Selous by early 2022," said the report seen by Xinhua, adding: "The elephant population in Selous is now near a historic low, and urgent measures are required to protect the remaining animals and return the population to a stable and sustainable size."

Selous currently generates 6 million U.S. dollars in annual revenues, which are distributed between the reserve, the national government, and more than 1.2 million people living in the surrounding area.

However, said the report, the income-generating potential of the site relies on its large wildlife populations and pristine natural ecosystems.

The loss of elephants and the degradation of habitats reduced Selous' appeal to tourists, and also threatened the vital ecosystem services that it provided to local communities, such as water provision and carbon sequestration, said the report.

"If left unchecked, harmful industrial activities and poaching will dramatically reduce the value of the reserve, making it difficult for the site to provide sufficient wildlife protection or to become economically self-sustaining" it said.

The report added that without adequate protection, the site could be used for activities that are incompatible with conservation, resulting in Selous being stripped of its World Heritage status, which would reduce the income generated by the site.

The report said harmful industrial activities, including oil and gas exploration and mineral extraction, posed a threat to the World Heritage Site, putting at risk its ability to support communities, and could lead to increased elephant poaching.

According to the report, as of February 2016, 75 per cent of Selous was covered by oil and gas concessions, and there were 54 mining concessions across the Selous, Africa's largest game reserve located in southern Tanzania.

"Extractive industries cause environmental degradation, including the destruction of wildlife habitats in the immediate area around exploration sites," said the report.

It added that in 2012, the boundary of the Selous World Heritage site was modified to enable the construction of a large scale uranium mine in the southern area of the reserve.

In the mid-1970s, nearly 110,000 elephants lived within the boundaries of the Selous World Heritage site, but by 2007 the population was down to 70,406 in the broader ecosystem, which extends beyond the reserve.

According to a 2014 elephant census, only 15,217 individuals remain in the Selous ecosystem.

The rapid decline of elephants equates to a loss of almost 90 per cent in fewer than 40 years.

During this period, poachers have been responsible for two waves of rapid depletion of elephant herds. The second wave occurred between 2010 and 2013 when an average of six elephants were killed every day by poaching syndicates throughout the Selous ecosystem.

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