TANZANIA (eTN) – During a four-day tour of Tanzania, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, expressed the agency’s commitment to support wildlife conservation in the country.
Concluding her official tour to Tanzania on Tuesday of this week, Madam Clark strongly stressed a need for the Tanzanian government to involve local communities in wildlife conservation activities and strengthen legal justice to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trafficking.
The UNDP Leader, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, called on governments around the world to increase the fight against elephant poaching and illicit trade in wildlife products, including blood ivory.
Speaking at a just-ended, high-profile, anti-poaching conference in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam, Clark said crimes like poaching and the blood ivory trade have enormous consequences for the most vulnerable people in developing countries, mostly in Africa, by robbing the nation’s wealth, destroying natural resources for future generations, and fueling crime and corruption, while undermining community and national security.
“These criminal activities put women, children, and others in poverty at further hardship and at greater risk,” she said.
The two-day, high-level conference promoted efforts to curb poaching, wildlife trafficking, and illicit ivory trade. It was attended by international conservation experts and Tanzanian conservation and tourism stakeholders from governments and international wildlife conservation institutions as well as other policy-making agencies.
She drew attention to the need for stronger law enforcement, reducing demand for illegally-traded wildlife products, and stable income-generating activities for communities in Tanzania and other elephant and wildlife host nations, mostly in Africa.
The UNDP leader pledged that the UN Agency is committed to supporting initiatives against wildlife trade by helping in governance, the rule of law, poverty eradication, and environment protection support to governments and with other partners.
“Strengthening governance is also critical to combat illegal wildlife trade, and law enforcement must be tackled on site and in strengthened national systems,” she said.
“Poaching of elephants and illegal blood ivory trade in Tanzania and across Africa has increased tremendously in recent years and poses a threat to [the] survival of African wildlife with security, economic, political, and ecological ramifications,” the UNDP leader added.
“I thank the government of the United Republic of Tanzania for hosting this important conference addressing the elephant poaching crisis in this country and the illicit trade in wildlife products,” she told the conference participants.
The conference endorsed several recommendations and actions for implementation on addressing the escalating poaching scourge in Tanzania. Among key issues was the establishment of a Tanzania Wildlife Authority to replace the current Wildlife Division.
It was agreed that Tanzania government should recruit additional managers to enhance the government’s “boots on the ground” initiative, and the establishment of a code of conduct and enforcement board to regulate the professional conduct of rangers, expansion of the current anti-poaching Task Force to an Inter-ministerial Task Force for Wildlife Management in this country, and the establishment of an ivory registry for record-keeping and secure storage of ivory stockpiles.
Other pertinent issues agreed upon for implementation are the improvement of coordination and governance of community engagement in wildlife conservation, and religious communities to work together to address the anti-poaching challenges, including public awareness and industry leaders and the private sector to set up a Natural Resources Stewardship Council.
Speaking at a closing function, Clark said the conservation of wildlife species in Tanzania is of great importance for biodiversity and ecosystems, and it is also of considerable economic and social benefit to local communities and the nation as a whole.
“Ending poaching, conserving wildlife, and ending the illegal wildlife trade will help reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable human development which is at the heart of UNDP’s work around the world,” she said.
She said the UNDP was committed to working in partnership with the government of Tanzania and other governments and partners to stop illicit blood ivory trade.
“We bring to the table our global expertise in building strong institutions and the rule of law, and on poverty eradication and environmental protection. We see the poaching crisis being addressed through three key strategies to be implemented, which are generating sustainable livelihoods for communities, strengthening law enforcement, and reducing the demand for illegally-traded wildlife,” she added.
The poaching crisis poses development, environmental, and security challenges. On this continent and elsewhere it is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction; it fuels corruption and conflict, it destroys lives, and it deepens poverty and inequality, according to the UNDP leader.
She told the conference participants that addressing rural poverty and creating opportunities for sustainable livelihoods is a critical element of curbing wildlife poaching and trafficking. This illegal trade seriously undermines community livelihoods and prospects for sustainable development.
The social and economic benefits of conservation of wildlife in Tanzania’s parks and reserves should be going to local communities and the nation. Community-based tourism, jobs in wildlife and park management, and government revenue-sharing from tourism can all help reduce poverty and inequality, including for women, youth, and marginalized groups.
The illegal trade, however, benefits lawbreakers who are often not from the local community, with the big profits flowing to sinister criminal syndicates.
Community-based natural resource management has been shown to be effective in reducing illegal wildlife trade. It encourages local support for conservation through income generation, and it helps with the management and the monitoring of the whole ecosystem, including that of wildlife, Clark added.
The UNDP already works closely with partners in a number of countries to design and implement public, private, and community-level partnerships which co-manage wildlife resources.
“Where rights are devolved to communities, we have seen massive recovery of wildlife populations. Namibia and Kenya are emerging examples of this with their conservancy approaches. Tanzania is also doing a huge amount of work through its wildlife management areas,” she said.
Community-based initiatives must be given the support they need to deliver incomes to rural people through tourism and other sectors. If local communities are kept out of the equation, however, they may turn a blind eye to poaching, or, driven by poverty, local people may be recruited into poaching gangs and organized syndicates.
“But if they can get a bigger share of the legal revenues from tourism and more secure rights to land and natural resources to support their livelihoods, and if measures are put in place to protect their crops, livestock, and lives from the dangers of human-wildlife conflict, then they will be an important part of the solution to the trafficking problem,” she said
Strengthening governance is critical to combating the illegal wildlife trade. Illegal practices flourish where institutions and law enforcement capacities are not as robust as they need to be. Once these practices are entrenched, they breed corruption, undermine the rule of law and democracy, and increase the risk of conflict and more crime, she concluded.
She also observed a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UNDP, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) of the United States of America, and Tanzania’s Ministry of Tourism for coordinating and organizing a regional Wildlife Conservation Conference in Tanzania that will be convened in October.
The conference is scheduled to attract ministers responsible for wildlife from the five members of the East African Community and other ministers from neighboring countries in Africa.
Organized by the Tanzanian government in collaboration with the ICCF and the United Nations Development Program, the just-ended, two-day elephant conservation conference attracted national and international stakeholders in the conservation of wildlife.