Significance of conservation in wildlife areas
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NALIKA Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a communal owned area dedicated for wildlife conservation in Tunduru District.

A sum of ten villages teamed up and each set aside a piece of land with potential to wildlife conservation totaling 111,125 hectares, harboring a vast range of both animals and plant species.

The area lies in the south of the famous Selous Game Reserve and thus forming a significant part of the Selous- Niassa ecosystem. Being well protected, NALIKA WMA has a great potential for ecological systems health, economic and social-cultural to the local communities and the nation at large provided that sustainable and acceptable utilisation practices are observed in pursuit to exploitation of its potential.

This WMA is endowed with a variety of large, medium and small mammals which include elephant, buffalo, hippopotamus, eland, zebra, waterbuck, hartebeest, wildebeest, Duiker, bushbuck, warthog, sable antelope, leopard, lion, civet and jackal.

Also it’s a home for a number of reptiles including crocodiles and snakes of different species. Being an area with dense pristine forest canopy, it is also a paradise to a variety of birds and insects.

NALIKA WMA forms part of the Ruvuma Elephant Project (REP) which has been implemented by the PAMS Foundation since 2011. The aim of the REP is to improve wildlife and associate natural resource law enforcement systems in the Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor and in so doing to also support elephant protection within Mozambique’s Niassa National Reserve.

Activities conducted to achieve this include foot patrols, aerial surveillance, intelligenceled special joint operations as well as local farmer and community development support and an environmental education program.

Mr Samwel Gibuyi, PAMS Foundation Conservation Officer and pilot based in the Region says: “In a period of some years back up to early 2012 when poaching crisis particu larly ivory was at the peak and at the ever experienced worst condition, NALIKA WMA was one of the targets for poaching syndicates.

It harbors a significant number of elephants and thus making it dominated by elephant carcasses in every corner. The tide was brilliantly turned and to date the number of elephant carcasses has drastically dropped to the average of one to two carcasses annually”.

The overall results achieved from project patrols, aerial surveillance, rapid response opera tions and other law enforcement activities since the Ruvuma Elephant Project’s inception include: the seizure of 4,568 snares, 19,336 illegal timber (pieces), 314 elephant tusks, 1,007 firearms, 1,692 rounds of ammunition, 6 vehicles and 19 motorcycles; the arrest of 828 people; and 439 elephant carcasses were observed, Mr Gibuyi says.

Over the past 6 months, project patrols, aerial surveillance, rapid response operations and other law enforcement activities have resulted in 24 arrests with the seizure of 29 firearms, 376 snares, 38 ivory tusks, and 216 pieces of illegal timber.

There were zero elephant carcasses found in the last 6 months of the reporting, however 2 elephants were sadly killed along the Ruvuma River during April 2017.

The culprits were arrested and are likely to get convicted to appropriate prison sentences. The incident did spoil the record of more than 9 months without a known ivory poaching incident within the project area.

As a result of well-planned and implemented strategy including foot patrols, aerial surveillance as well as intelligence led operations that NALIKA WMA has been carrying out over a period of almost six years in partnership with the PAMS Foundation, the elephant population has been increasing and the area is safe for the survival of all other wildlife species as well.

Operations undertaken in partnership with the National & Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit and Ministry of Natural Resource & Tourism’s-Wildlife & Forest Crimes Task Force over the last 6 months, which were aimed at higher level ivory cartels, resulted in the further arrests of 27 suspects, seizure of 7 firearms and 44 rounds of ammunition, and 7 prison sentences between 10 and 20 years.

Said Masudi the Chairman for NALIKA WMA explained: “Before this anti-poaching project, Elephant poaching in NALIKA WMA was very high and there was not any support in terms of patrol equipment, tactical anti-poaching training and even allowances for game scouts.

“But with the support we are receiving from PAMS Foundation, we can confidently say that poaching incidences have been controlled for more than 97 percent in NALIKA WMA”.

Maxmillan Jenes–REP Coordinator is full of praise for the community. He says that “NALIKA WMA has been exceptionally well led, committed and are justifiably proud of their conservation efforts on behalf of their community and their country.

Basic as well as Advanced Tactical Anti-Poaching Training courses are conducted for game scouts and rangers in Ruvuma. Saidi Makatcha, a highly committed local game scout who was developed by PAMS Foundation to be a trainer, is now leading the month long training courses as a head instructor. Makatcha is from Twendembele Village and is the Commander of NALIKA WMA’s game scouts”.

He also now conducts training for game scouts in other parts of Tanzania and will even train some scouts later this year. Krissie Clark, the founding Director of PAMS Foundation, explains that “Aerial surveillance with the light sport aircraft has continued to be a useful tool in the Ruvuma and it has not only helped for guiding and informing patrols but it has also contributed as a Human-Elephant Conflict mitigation measure where elephants invade community farms”.

HumanElephant Conflict (HEC) also continues to be a top priority for the project team. Education and understanding within communities grows as the team works towards the goal of a sustainable solution to the conflict.

Talking in a recent meeting with villagers at Wenje Village, Tunduru District Commissioner Mr Juma Homera acknowledged PAMS Foundation for providing two aircrafts which are very useful not only in aerial anti-poaching surveillance but also in Human-Elephant Conflict mitigation. He insisted that villagers should contact PAMS Foundation staff once they hear about elephants in their village land.

Shaziri Adamu (HEC mitigation officer for the REP) highlights that “Given the increasingly high profile of elephants in Tanzania through national media, etc., expectations within communities dealing with HEC are changing.

They now see that the elephant is highly valued and they therefore expect that they will get more HEC mitigation assistance. That is why PAMS Foundation has put a lot of focus and effort into this and to related education.”

*Albert Daudi is a wildlife conservation specialist.

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