3 September 2018

Tanzania: Conservation - Remembering Converted Wildlife Poachers

ONE of our renowned environmentalists, Prof Raphael Mwalyosi, describes the Selous Game Reserve as a driver for sustainable development giving long-term benefits to Tanzania and its people. Tanzania needs increased energy to help drive its development.

The government has set out its 2025 energy vision in the Tanzania Power System Master Plan (2016 update). WWF opposes developments in protected areas that (could) negatively impact on their ecological core values - in the case of World Heritage Sites - which is called its Outstanding Universal Value.

The IUCN mission in February 2017 identified that the construction of Stiegler's Gorge would impact on the ecology of the Selous and livelihoods beyond the protected area's borders.

That's why WWF commissioned research into the Stiegler's Gorge project that strongly indicates significant impacts both inside and outside the Selous, on local economies, people's livelihoods as well as environment.

As the project continues to be promoted WWF is calling for rigorous, transparent research to be carried out as part of a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Selous catchment area as required under Tanzanian law.

The results should be made public to allow a discussion and evaluation of the true benefit to Tanzania. Yes, we need power and, yes, the Stiegler's Gorge could provide that needed power.

My problem is, why continue calling it 'Stiegler's' when that poacher of African wildlife simply chanced upon it? We are told that the Swiss (Stiegler) was killed by an elephant, but we aren't made privy to how that happened.

The other guy after whom we named our prime game reserves is Frederick Courtney Selous, from whom we have the Selous Game Reserve today. If my reading of website rumour serves me, this man started off as a thief of bird eggs in Romania or something like that.

What irks yours truly most is that Selous returned to Africa to take part in what the Brits would call the First Matabele War of 1893 and was wounded during the on the so-called advance on Bulawayo.

It was during this advance that he first met fellow scout Frederick Russell Burnham, who had only just arrived in Africa and who continued on with the small scouting party to Bulawayo and observed the self-destruction of the Ndebele settlement as ordered by Lobengula.

Selous returned to England, married, and in 1896 he returned to Africa with his wife and settled on a landed property overlooking a river.

When the Second World War broke out, Selous took a prominent part in the fighting which followed, serving as a leader in the Bulawayo Field Force, and published an account of the campaign entitled Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia (1896).

It was during this time that he met and fought alongside Robert Baden-Powel, who was then a Major and newly appointed to the British Army headquarters staff in Matabeleland.

In the First World War, at the age of 64, Selous rejoined the British Army and saw active service in the fighting against German colonial forces in the East Africa Campaign.

On 23 August 1915, he was promoted to Captain in the uniquely composed 25th Frontiersman Battalion and on 26 September 1916 was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order).

I wouldn't like to dwell so much on history, but my pain lingers on foreign names that we still keep as if they were holy script ... " give a dog a bad name... " as the saying goes, and you're in for big trouble.

Two of these stick out like sore fingers - Stiegler and Selous. We are not even told what business these guys had prowling over such prime wildlife reserves.

One thing is clear. The African bushes, as all its resources, were still open to wanton exploitation.

Any Englishman, as they called themselves then, could leave London, come here and shoot down elephants and go tell his exploits in a neighbourhood pub.

It's from these exploits we remain stuck with names like Stiegler's Gorge and Selous Game Reserve. Where were all those local people, the Wavidunda chiefs, for instance, when their prime areas were being given names of the 'Mzungu' poachers?

Make no mistake about this: I'm not being racist, just Irish. One joke I remember so well is when a Scot said "... in Scotland we make very good forks ... and with the knives we eat 'em (them)."

So with the same 'tribal' instincts I would wish to suggest a serious 'renaming' of the Selous and the so-called Stiegler's Gorge. Let's pause for thought. We have a lot of illustrious sons and daughters in this republic.

Try Bibi Titi Gorge, when in a mood to honour our ladies.

If you happen to be politically practical, why not go for Magufuli or Maja (liwa) Falls?

We should literally get irritated every time we name our things after foreign kings. Oh, my own name is foreign. So where do we begin?

Cell: 0712122128 Email: shanimpinga@gmail.com

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