The Southern Tanzania Elephant Conservation Forum (STECF) met for the first time in Iringa town on July 19 at the Neema Crafts Conference Centre. Thirty-six participants attended. Mr. Adam Swai from the Iringa Regional Government, Mr. John Muya from the Wildlife Division and Mr. Dennis Ikanda from TAWIRI opened our meeting, moderated by Professor Mutayoba (SUA) and Ponjoli Joram (TANAPA & UEP).
Members’ talks covered challenging and complex issues including contraction of elephant range in Africa and chronic physiological stress experienced by groups without matriarchs and groups made up of non-relatives (Prof. Mutayoba); the debate over consolation (Mr. Muya and Alex Chang’a) and the possibility of a micro-credit scheme to empower farmers and make HEC mitigation sustainable (Alex Chang’a); broad patterns of HEC and non-lethal deterrent methods such as cultivation of non-palatable crops (sesame, sunflowers, chilies) and donor independent methods such as the Combretum ash-chilli method (Cyprian Malima); the mis-match between locations of “Problem Animal Control” and actual hotspots of HEC in eastern Selous to the coast (Cyprian Malima); the dangers of policies such as Kilimo Kwanza, of priority farming areas placed within wildlife corridors, and conflicts of interest between conservation bodies (WD, TANAPA and district councils) (Ponjoli Joram), as well as the need for less bureaucracy and more actual support in, for example, the establishment of WMAs (Rogasian Mtana); historical and current connectivity of elephant populations (Prof. Mutayoba, Cyprian Malima, and Trevor Jones); and the two top strategic objectives of the 2010-2015 Tanzania Elephant Management Plan: HEC and corridors (T. Jones).
We agreed that problems in southern Tanzania are unique, i.e., different from those faced by elephants in the north where populations such as Serengeti and Tarangire are relatively well-protected. Arguably, meanwhile, the two most important elephant populations in Eastern Africa (representing 60% of elephants in E. Africa) are Ruaha-Rungwa and Selous-Mikumi. It was proposed that the former one should be re-surveyed soon, and that MIKE data from the Selous-Mikumi population need updating.
A wealth of local knowledge about elephant corridors and human-people interactions from around southern Tanzania was shared during the meeting. More content of our moderated and focal groups’ (HEC, land-use & corridors, behavior & ecology, and community conservation & WMAs) discussions will be reported in an upcoming Proceedings-style report. In addition, a southern Tanzania corridors and HEC hotspots map that was begun by forum members with the help of GIS expert, Guy Picton-Phillipps (WCS), will be made available for updating online.
The meeting ended with enthusiastic discussion about future plans for the forum. A chair and committee were agreed, and we hope to meet again in January 2013.
Check back for more details soon. Meanwhile, some photographs from the meeting. Please click on the images to view a larger version of the photos.
Forum Members’ talks. From top left: Mr. Muya on challenges facing wildlife, Prof. Mutayoba on poaching threats & elephant stress physiology and genetics, Kate on symbolic value of elephants in Tz, Cyprian on novel ash-chilli wind blown deterrent method and Selous-Indian Ocean corridors, Alex on sustainability of HEC mitigation, Joram on government bodies and policies, and Trevor on management plan & corridors website.
Elephant dung paper demo in Neema Crafts workshop.
Moderated discussion during the forum meeting.
Group photo outside Neema Crafts.
We thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the World Society for the Protection of Animals for sponsoring this meeting.