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Findings by the Tarangire Lion Project show a total of 226 lions killed between 2004-2013 in retaliation by neighbouring communities for the killing of livestock. In recent years, many more lions have been killed, and the worst mass killing was in 2009 when 26 lions were slaughtered by angry villagers, shaking Tanzania’s reputation as one of the remaining lion strongholds in the world. In 2015 and 2016 at least  another seven lions have been killed.

These numbers of lions killed have not been widely recognized or acknowledged apart from local newspaper articles and perhaps a few obscure publications in scientific journals. LionAid reported on this situation in 2015.

This is nothing but a tale of bad land management, and government failure, and frustration by local people. These sorts of tales should be coming all too familiar to us as these situations are surely not being addressed with any urgency.  

Lake Manyara National Park was gazetted in 1960. Only measuring 325km2, it is tiny. Nevertheless, the park gained international fame because of the “tree-climbing” lions, proximity to the international tourist entry point in Arusha, and also perhaps because the park is where Ian Douglas Hamilton began his elephant “research” in 1965. The park is located in the Arusha and Manyara Administrative Regions in Tanzania but the communities receive no income from the park. That all flows to the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), a governmental organization with many critics, including the international media over, just as one example, attempting to deny the scale of the slaughter that has decimated Tanzania’s elephants over the past few years.

Tarangire National Park was gazetted in 1970. The park measures 2,850km2, about 8.8 times the size of Manyara.  The two parks are only about 50km apart.

So would it not, in the wisdom of wildlife corridors these days, make sense to provide opportunities for wildlife to move from one to the other? It must be one of the shortest wildlife corridors between two National Parks?

But no.

There does exist a “corridor” between the two parks and it even has a name – the Kwakuchinja Wildlife Migration Corridor. Crucial to this “corridor” is the so called Manyara Ranch. A failed government cattle project, the ranch was taken over in 2001 by the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust to benefit the surrounding communities. Much has been written about this Manyara Ranch as a “success” story, but perhaps this initial enthusiasm needs to be re-evaluated.

The Manyara Ranch website says this:

“African Wildlife Foundation is our principle partner. It manages the ranch, conservation projects, community relations and other legal aspects related to Manyara Ranch not involving tourism. In addition to funds generated by visitors to Manyara Conservancy, donors provide some funding to AWF for the management of the project.”.

A tourism website has this to say:

“In addition to its importance as a corridor, Manyara Ranch offers exciting conservation outreach potential for showcasing how communities can benefit from wildlife conservation outside of protected areas. Set in a landscape experiencing rapid habitat degradation, the ranch serves as a laboratory to study the factors driving habitat degradation and human-wildlife conflicts. This research informs innovative and adaptive management approaches aimed at curtailing habitat degradation, conflict mitigation and habitat restoration. Approaches include diverse conservation financing mechanisms, combining both community and private initiatives. The process of identifying, planning, and managing income-generating activities is guided by the goal of developing a sustainable mechanism for both conservation and benefit sharing with local communities.”.

The Manyara Ranch even has an abattoir meeting international export standards as well as attempting to maintain “luxury tourist accommodations”?

A scientific paper entitled “Wildlife Induced Damage to Crops and Livestock Loss and how they Affect Human Attitudes in the Kwakuchinja Wildlife Corridor in Northern Tanzania” by  Kwaslema Malle Hariohay and Eivin Røskaft published in Environment and Natural Resources Research; Vol. 5, No. 3; 2015 had this to say:

“Wildlife induced damage to crops and livestock is jeopardising people’s life near the borders of protected areas while human encroaches boundaries of Tarangire National Park... there were negative interactions between wildlife and local communities, there was increased livestock depredations and crop damage and the wildlife induced-damage was greater in the border of TNP…  households close to the boundary of the National Park incurred greater losses from crop and livestock depredation. The negative interactions between wild animals and the losses they incur from depredations and crop damage interviewed respondents had negative attitude toward wild animals. Developing ways of enabling farmers to benefit from the existence of protected areas could be a possible way forward but in the case of the TNP, benefits from outreach activities are currently inadequate to offset costs associated with wildlife, and poor track record of revenues from tourist reaching local farmers. Experience from community-based conservation projects show that distribution of benefits can be problematic and does not necessarily improve conservation. “

Read that again. Revenues from tourists do not reach communities, the local attitude to wildlife is overwhelmingly negative, and community-based conservation projects are failing to distribute benefits.

Also, a Tarangire project established by the organization Lion Guardians in the area in2013 seems to have been terminated.

Neither does trophy hunting in the area seem to have benefited local communities or changed attitudes. Trophy hunters shoot about 15 lions per annum in concessions bordering Tarangire, but income from such activities does not convince local communities to take a less aggressive stance to those predators (hyenas mostly) which prey on livestock.

Of course, Tanzania has no government compensation scheme for farmers or pastoralists who lose crops or livestock to wildlife. This is despite the tourism sector being responsible for $4.5billion to the economy in 2013 – accounting for 14% of Tanzania’s GDP and employing 11% of the workforce. One would have thought Tanzania would be as careful of her wildlife as Botswana is?

What a mess. Well over 240 lions killed in 12 years? A failed wildlife migration corridor programme that includes an international wildlife conservation organization operating a cattle ranch in the middle of the corridor? A scientific study that shows local communities benefiting nothing from national park income, or being able to benefit from trophy hunting concessions or tourism ventures?

No wonder Tanzania is being looked at askance these days. 70,000 elephants poached in five years without a mutter from the government while it was going on. Lions killed all over the place without turning a wildlife department hair. Hunting concessions awarded to Middle Eastern companies resulting in revealed excesses. A highway across the Serengeti receiving renewed government interest.

Tanzania does not need this negative image while attempting to portray herself as a “wildlife-friendly” tourism destination. With many competitors for the wildlife tourism dollar Tanzania should either polish their tarnished wildlife conservation image soonest or risk losing significant income in the future.  And it is good to see that newly-elected President Magufuli is taking remedial steps.
Picture credit: Lion Guardians

Posted by Chris Macsween at 19:09

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