29 March 2019

Tanzania: Serengeti Police Warns Village Game Scouts Over Poaching

THE police force in Serengeti has vowed to continue taking legal measures against IKona Wildlife Management (WMA), Village Game Scouts (VGS), if found poaching instead of protecting wild animals.

Presently the WMA is bordering Serengeti National Park and IKorongo / Grumeti Game Reserves in Western Serengeti. The WMA management employs local men and women called VGS to protect wild animals against poaching acts. But some of them had been arrested and they are now facing poaching related charges at a court in Mugumu.

Besides that a Toyota land cruiser pick up belonging to the WMA had been impounded after it was linked with transport of bush meat locally known as vimoro, according to the Serengeti Officer Commanding District (OCD), SP Mathew Mgema.

"The suspects are facing poaching charges in court and the WMA vehicle is being withheld awaiting the outcome of the court ruling", said SP Mgema.

Speaking when he was presiding over a winding up of a special anti-poaching course that involved 25 VGS, from the WMA inside Western Serengeti ecosystem recently, SP Mgema warned the VGS against engaging in poaching acts. "L ast year (2018) two VGS were arrested and there was also another arrest involving the VGS this year (2019).

You don't even need to be suspected. If you repeat you will see and no one will be spared from facing tough legal measures", the OCD repeatedly warned the VGS. The fifth phase government under President John Magufuli administration intensified the war against poaching since it was voted to power in 2015 by taking legal measures against those found involved in poaching.

The government's conservation campaign is reportedly bearing fruit with the number of elephants and other endangered wild animals going up. The Serengeti OCD describes the poaching allegations facing the VGS as shameful to people who are entrusted with protecting wild animals. When reached for comment Ikona WMA Secretary Mr Y usufu Manyanda confirmed that three men including two VGS had been fired over poaching allegations.

"A total three men of which two are VGS and one member of the WMA Association Authority (AA), had been suspended due to poaching allegations", Mr Manyanda said without going into details. The WMA generates up to 3 billion shillings from several tourism investors every year. L arge part of the WMA's income comes from Singita Grumeti which operates several world class lodges within the vicinity of a 35 0,000 - acre concession bordering the WMA and world famous Serengeti National Park and the WMA.

Singita Grumeti conducts photographic tourism in the WMA which forms integral part of the Serengeti ecosystem. The 'Daily News' understands that the MWA has received 1,529,289 US dollars (over 3.5 billion shillings), from Singita Grumeti between 2014 and 2018 alone. The money is supposed to support local development in five villages that formed the WMA in 2007. The villages are Robanda, Park Nyigoti, Makundusi, Nyichoka and Natta.

" This year alone we have earned around 2 billion shillings of which 50 per cent is directed to community the other 50 percent on conservation and administrative matters", Mr Manyanda said. SP Mgema (Serengeti OCD), underscored the importance of protecting the WMA by ensuring that it remains free from poachers and livestock keepers citing it's significant contribution on social and economic development in the five villages.

"L et people stop taking livestock to graze in the WMA. Each of the five villages is getting millions of money coming from tourism. Tourists coming would like to see beautiful wild animals and not cows", the district police chief said. He expressed optimism that the VGS will change and become good ambassadors of wildlife conservation in the WMA and other wildlife conservation areas in Western Serengeti. "I believe there will be changes after this training.

Conduct patrols day and night to end poaching and grazing of livestock in the WMA", SP Mgema pointed out on parts of his remarks. The OCD presided over the VGS's training winding up occasion on behalf of Serengeti District Commissioner (DC), Mr Nurdin Babu. The anti-poaching course was jointly organized by Frankfurt Z oological Society (FZ S), in collaboration with Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute (PWTI).

He also reminded the VGS to observe professionalism and have good working relationship with the tourism investors operating in the area. Mr Masegeri Tumbuya from FZ S at Serengeti office said conservation of the Ikona WMA is imperative for sustainable conservation Serengeti ecosystem and development of local communities. "Ecologically Ikona WMA is a very important wildlife corridor in Western Serengeti ", Mr Tumbuya who is so familiar with conservation matters in Serengeti said on part of his remarks during the event.

He said the training was designed to capacitate the VGS so that they can intensify anti- poaching patrols within the WMA covering nearly 250 square kilometres. The two-week training was funded by Government of Germany through KfW Development Bank. It covered wildlife conservation laws, ethics, human rights and etchings the VGS could apply when dealing with poachers and wild animals like rampaging elephants invading local communities to destroy farmers crops.

"All these efforts are meant to protect IKona WMA and the local communities must continue seeing the economic benefits of conservation", Mr Tumbuya who is the FZ S Community Conservation Manger in Serengeti said.

Mr Tumbuya echoed with the Serengeti OCD that Ikona WMA is earning substantial revenue that can make big impact in funding conservation and local development activities that could would have transformed lives of the citizens living in the five villages.

However good news is that the wild animal's population is going up within the WMA, thanks to on-going conservation efforts by the government in collaboration with other key stakeholders such as FZ S and Grumeti Fund. "At this time Ikona WMA has many different wild animals, let us protect them ", and admits IKona WMA chairman Mr Elias Chama. That is to say the WMA is now home to beautiful animals, which include elephants, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

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