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Tanzania has stated unequivocally that it will not consider suspending or banning hunting. Government officials cite the numerous benefits that sustainable utilization of wildlife brings to wildlife and people in the country.
Responding to assertions made by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force at a recent workshop in Arusha that legal hunting fuels illegal wildlife trade, Adelhelm Meru, the Tanzanian Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, stated that evidence clearly shows that levels of poaching in hunting concessions in Tanzania are much lower than in non-hunting areas. He added that if legal hunting were suspended, poaching would certainly take over.
According to the Tanzania Hunting Operators Association, 65% of the conservation funding in Tanzania is derived from hunting revenues. The loss of hunting revenue would prove disastrous to conservation efforts. It would take rangers out of the field and suspend anti-poaching programs, leaving wildlife completely defenseless against poachers.
In recent years, animal welfare organizations have increasingly attempted to link legal and sustainable hunting with illegal wildlife trade as justification for banning hunting. Evidence for this agenda is typically non-existent.
In 2014, Botswana suspended all hunting in response to wildlife census data showing declines of key species. While even the government of Botswana admits that the cause for those species declines was not due to hunting, the prevalence of poaching and illegal trade in bushmeat and wildlife products was used as justification for the hunting ban. Media reports such as this recent New York Times article are already beginning to show the negative impacts of the hunting ban in Botswana. Community based conservation organizations have been bankrupted, jobs have been lost and there are increased levels of poaching and human-wildlife conflict throughout the country.
Countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, and even Botswana in the past, have led the way in pioneering community-based conservation in which people benefit from wildlife and wildlife in return benefit from people’s improved attitudes toward them. These communal conservation efforts have proven that when people benefit from wildlife in the form of revenue from hunting and other forms of sustainable utilization, wildlife will not only benefit, it will thrive. There are now more wild animals living on community owned lands in Namibia than there are inside the official national parks. Tanzania’s system of communal Wildlife Management Areas provides a direct way for people to benefit from wildlife, and the number one way for them to do so is through hunting revenue. Taking away that benefit would undermine decades of positive conservation gains.
By saying no to shortsighted and ill-informed calls to ban hunting, Tanzania has taken a stand for science, for its people and for its wildlife. Permanent Secretary Meru’s remarks are consistent with SCI Foundation’s mission to ensure that the best available science is used in wildlife policy and management, and to demonstrate the constructive role that hunting and hunters play in the conservation of biodiversity worldwide.
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