16 May 2005

Tanzania: Stray Elephants Destroy Houses, Crops in Northern Tanzania

Nairobi — Herds of rogue elephants have been terrorising Tanzania's northern regions, destroying houses and crops. Villagers are forced to escort their children to school for fear that they could be attacked by the rampaging jumbos.

The elephants have destroyed over 200 acres of maize, sorghum, groundnuts, and watermelons among other crops, in eight villages of Mbugwe, next to the famous Tarangire National Park, in Manyara region.

The local Magugu Ward councilor, John Jeu, told The EastAfrican last week that in some villages, farmers have abandoned their daily activities, spending most of their time chasing away the elephants. He said the number of jumbos that have been terrorising the villages in the area are between 25 to 30.

The most affected villages are Nkaiti, Sangaiwe, Saramena Mwikatsi, Gijedaboung, Taifa Jipya and Bulkeri - all located in the Mbugwe division of Babati, Manyara region.

In the neighbouring district of Monduli in Arusha region, stray elephants have destroyed water supply systems in parts of the district, causing panic among residents.

There are an estimated 5,000 elephants in Tarangire National Park and neighbouring Lake Manyara National Park.

Wildlife experts say the big herds, faced with shrinking forest cover and human encroachment of their corridors, stray into human settlements for either food or while migrating to other places.

Monduli District Commissioner Captain Anthony Malley said about 30 families in the area have had their farms destroyed by the elephants over the past few months.

Monduli District borders two major national parks, the Manyara and Tarangire.

The Chairman of the Tanzania National Parks Board of Trustees, Colonel Emmanuel Stephen Balele, said Tanapa would conduct a census at Tarangire National Park to determine the exact number of elephants and consult various international organisations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Flora and Fauna), on how to deal with the jumbo menace.

CITES gives protection to more than 30,000 species including elephants. Because of CITES, which bans the selling of ivory, Tanzania has about 90 tonnes of elephant tusks in its strong rooms according to conservation sources.

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Zakia Meghji, said at the moment there are over 120,000 elephants countrywide compared with 55,000 in the various national parks and game reserves in 1989.

Wild elephants have not killed anyone so far, wildlife authorities say insisting that the rapidly shrinking of habitats is the main reason elephants are roaming the villages.

In Monduli, wildlife officials and villagers use firecrackers and bonfires to scare away the the elephants. The Tanapa Director-General, Gerald Bigurube, says elephant population has not abnormally increased in the areas but rather human settlements were being built in traditional animal migratory routes.

He said human settlements were squeezing the animal routes, creating a sense of an exploding elephant population.

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