Arusha — A community wildlife conservation project in Longido District, Arusha Region, has acquired a drone.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is intended to enhance patrols against game poachers.
"We are the first wildlife conservation area (WMA: wildlife management area) to acquire the technology," said Igno I. Laitayok, a senior official of the project.
Following the retrenchment of some game rangers due to financial constraints, it had been difficult to ensure protection of the animals, or track down culprits.
"A drone can easily substitute foot patrols through aerial surveillance," he said when briefing a delegation of the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism led by the permanent secretary, Prof Adolf Mkenda.
Besides the drone, the 752-square-kilometre Enduimet WMA is using digital radio communication for the purpose.
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The community-based WMA was formed in 2004 under the 1998 Tanzania Wildlife Policy which recognizes rural communities participation.
It was also intended to encourage investment in sustainable management of wildlife and other natural resources.
It is managed by the Enduimet Authorised Association which comprises 33 members from the 11 villages in the area.
It is an important wildlife migratory route connectingthe Kilimanjaro and Arusha National Parks in Tanzania and the Amboseli National Park in Kenya.
According to Mr Laitayok, the protected area serves as a hunting block and a photographic zone for tourists.
Donkey and horse rides - as well as cycling and cultural tourism - are other tourism activities which unfailingly attract visitors.
The high tech acquired would also be used to fight escalating human/wildlife clashes, which continue to claim lives and property, including livestock and farm crops.
Between 2009 - shortly after the WMA got its user right - and last year, 16 people, 62 cattle and 366 goats/sheep were killed by wild animals.
Speaking at the site, the director of Wildlife Division in the ministry, Dr Maurus Msuha, said families of people killed by wild animals are eligible for 'token' compensation from the government.
The same applies to families losing their livestock to wild animals.
Through enhanced conservation, some animals are already back to the conservation area. These include lions, elephants, buffaloes, hyenas, cheetah and wild dogs - as well as grazing animals such as antelopes.