Tanzania’s elephant population has dropped alarmingly to just 43,330 in 2014 from 109,051 in 2009, the country’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu said this week.
The drop is most likely attributed to poaching. The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, said its latest information shows that at least 45 tons of ivory has flowed from Tanzania to international markets in Asia since 2009.
“It is incredible that poaching on such an industrial scale has not been identified and addressed before now,” Steven Broad, TRAFFIC’s executive director, said in a statement.
Some regions in Tanzania were hit harder than others, particularly the Ruaha–Rungwa, Malagarasi-Muyovosi and Selous-Mikumi ecosystems. World Wildlife Federation’s global species program director Carlos Drews told the Guardian that the massive losses in those regions pointed to international crime gangs, and said the problem is “compounded by corruption and weak enforcement capacity in Tanzania.” There is an “urgent need to scale up efforts to tackle the poaching epidemic before the area’s remaining elephant herds are destroyed,” he added.
To address the problem, Nyalandu said he would recruit an additional 500 rangers on top of the 500 that were hired last year and double the number of rangers deployed in the hard-hit Ruaha-Rungwa region — which has historically been home to large numbers of elephants. He also said he would provide better support and training for the rangers and coordinate more closely with neighboring Zambia on anti-poaching measures.
The Great Elephant Census, a project started by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, led the elephant counts in Tanzania and Mozambique. The project aims to do aerial surveys all across Africa to get an estimate of the continent’s total elephant population.
Last week, Mozambique announced that 48 percent of its elephants, around 9,700, had been lost to poaching over the last five years.
Elephants seem to be on the decline all across Africa. A report published last year by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species found that poachers killed 20,000 elephants in 2013.