Manyara — THE Government will not let poachers win in the fight against illegal poaching, despite it being a big challenge.
Addressing residents of Burunge in Manyara region, during the launch of Burunge Wildlife Management Area (MWA) visitor's centre, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, said illegal poaching is a big challenge to the government but it (government) has to fight to safeguard elephants and other wild animals for future generation.
"Illegal poaching is a big challenge, they have a huge network but we cannot afford to fail in this fight, we cannot give the victory to poachers, we need to stand firm, with support from other stakeholders, at the end of the day, it will be a victory for the future generation of this country," Ambassador Kagasheki noted.
He said MWAs are among ways to contain poaching since communities managing them will ensure they are protected from illegal poaching. The Minister explained that the government through his ministry intends to host an International Conference to be held in the country, on the future of African elephants, whose main agenda is to bring the whole world to Tanzania and Africa in general, in the fight against poaching.
He explained that the US government receives 600bn/- in revenue and six million employment opportunities annually from visitors visiting protected areas, such as parks, adding it would help Tanzania to do the same to generate revenue that will boost the economy.
"We should reach a point and become self sufficient, and have the public benefit from their natural resources and on the issue of anti-poaching, we also need to amend our laws to provide for severe punishments and fines to the culprits," he explained.
He thanked the US government, through USAID, for its support not only in the establishment of WMAs, but also in other areas including review of different laws and policies governing tourism and wildlife in the country. The Guest of honour at the event, the US Deputy Secretary, department of Interior, Mr David Hayes, who took pride in the US government's support in establishing Burunge WMAs, which is part of five other similar WMAs being launched today, said there is an ominous storm cloud threatening the success of MWAs. Mr Hayes said the potential for the continued success of the WMAs is threatened by the spike in illegal wildlife poaching seen in Tanzania.
"Armed poachers pose a threat to human life, a threat to wildlife and a threat to tourism. I am here to say that we all lose... and lose badly if poachers win," he stressed. He underscored the importance of local communities' role as the first line of defence against the terrible threat to elephants and other targeted wild animals.
"You the people of Burunge WMA... the elected members of the Authorized Association, the village scouts who bravely patrol the WMA and face down poachers and the resident of Burunge village, must be vigilant against what might undermine what you have achieved," he explained.
The US Ambassador to Tanzania, Ambassador Alfonso Lenhardt, said WMAs represent a critical contribution to a wider effort to decrease the impact of wildlife poaching. He said the US government has supported WMAs in Tanzania since 1998, to decentralize management responsibility and authority for control of wildlife habitat within village lands into the hands of local communities around the area.
"With Tanzania's unique richness in wildlife and natural resources, WMAs have become among the most important approaches that communities can use to capture the benefits of wildlife and other natural resources, at the same time conserve the natural resources and environment better managing their lands," he explained. As of June 2012 Tanzania had 17 WMAs which are gazetted with user rights and an additional 21 MWAs at various stages of development.