Building scribes’ capacity to promote wildlife conservation

TANZANIA is one of the twelve megadiverse countries of the world with six out of 25 world’s well-known biodiversity hotspots, one-third of the total plant species on the continent and about 20 per cent of the huge mammals’ population in Africa.

This is why wildlife stakeholders and experts refer to the well-planned practice of ensuring protection of wild animal species, their habitats and plants not only to enjoy the Mother Nature, but also recognise the unshaken importance of wildlife towards our wellbeing and surroundings.

The experts argue that as wildlife conservation becomes a need of the persistent demands which modern people must address --- the media among other developers are the core engine in ensuring protection for wildlife and stand a better chance to push for better protection of the unique natural heritage and resource.

Thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) for providing capacity building to journalists in the country on how to report news related to environmental conservation and wildlife protection.

The training, through a six-month project dubbed ‘PROTECT’ was conducted in Bagamoyo District late last month, with the aim of improving journalists’ knowledge and capacity to report effectively on the matter. It involved 30 journalists from print, TV, radio and social networks from various media houses in Tanzania.

It was facilitated by wildlife experts, government representatives, veteran journalists and lecturers from national universities. Speaking during the training, Executive Director of JET, Mr John Chikomo, said USAID and JET collaboration would help journalists embark on reporting extensively on environment and wildlife protection and help in controlling challenges that engulf the country’s wildlife protection.

He said the training will not only control or get rid of challenges that encounter environment and wildlife protection, but will also enhance attraction of more tourists and investors as well as promoting foreign currency.

“With capacity building, journalists will be able to improve their knowledge and capacity to report effectively on environmental issues. This in turn will attract more tourists and investors,” he said, adding that the move would also enhance the attainment of the industrialisation drive come 2020 and middle income country by 2025.

According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Tanzania’s domestic travel spending was 752.5bn/- in 2014 and is expected to grow by 6.1 per cent by 2024 and generate 170,821 additional jobs.

In 2013, the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority collected about 47bn/- from 507, 984 tourists, while the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) collected revenues amounting 105bn/- from 750,977 tourists in the same year.

However, a Senior Programme Specialist (Natural Resource Management and Policy), Mr Joseph Olila, said the wildlife sector has not been able to develop to its full potential due to various challenges which he said called for stakeholders’ collaboration, including the journalists’ commitment.

“Despite its endowment and economic potentials to the nation and local communities, the wildlife sector has not been able to develop to its full potential,” he noted. Mr Olila said failure of wildlife conservation as a form of land use, to compete adequately with other forms of land use, especially to the village communities is among main challenges that needs journalists’ attention.

Other challenges are: persistent illegal killing of wildlife and wildlife trade, low budgetary allocation for conservation and development of wildlife sector, poor infrastructure in wildlife areas and increase in human-wildlife conflicts.

“Inadequate awareness and knowledge on the values of wildlife, inadequate policy, legal and institutional response and climate change and invasive species are also among the challenges that haunt wildlife protection,” he said.

A veteran journalist and conservationist working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Tanzania, Mr Atilio Tagalile, insisted on the use of media on protection and conservation of wildlife, with journalists reporting more but deeply for better conservation and protection of wildlife resources.

“The media has a stake in environmental conservation as well as wildlife protection and for that matter, journalists ought to play a role of reporting more and quality news and this can only be achieved if they (journalists) specialise in conservation and protection of wildlife,” he said.

Mr Tagalile asked journalists to also seek more learning on their areas of specialisation especially on wildlife protection in order to increase knowledge and skills on how to report quality news on the area of specialisation. He said the move will also enable journalists know how to gather information, format story angles for a quality and solution providing reporting.

On the other hand, the Lecturer and the Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC), Mr Abdallah Katunzi, urged the journalists to base on investigative journalism for quality reporting.

The journalists were also trained on the importance of evidence and details in wildlife investigative journalism, advocacy, communication and community engagement and wildlife conservation, international and presentation.

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