Hi everyone. As we gear up to begin a new project in the amazing Ruaha ecosystem of southern Tanzania – where East Africa’s 2nd largest elephant population is under increasing poaching pressure – here is a brief round-up of our year so far…
In January, UEP Director Dr. Trevor Jones attended a two-day meeting in Dar es Salaam on the elephant poaching crisis in Tanzania, organised by TEPS (Tanzania Elephant Protection Society) and officiated by Mr. James Lembeli MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee Of Land, Natural Resources And Environment. We subsequently took a lead role in editing the report to the Parliamentary Committee, and Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, recommending solutions to the crisis.
In February, our human-elephant co-existence project with farmers in the Udzungwa Mountains received a boost with the arrival of international Raleigh volunteers, who (among other jobs) helped the farmers and UEP team to re-build roofs for the 50 beehives that currently make up the beehive fence – and planted flowers under every hive. The Njokomoni Farmers Group have been harvesting honey and it is selling well, with the profits going back into our collaborative efforts to reduce the crop-raiding.
In March, our MSc student, Lukinga Thabit, completed his fieldwork on the important elephant corridor linking Ruaha and Udzungwa Mountains National Parks. Lukinga is writing up now at the University of Dar es Salaam, and his results will help guide our plans to conserve this critical genetic connectivity for Southern Tanzania’s elephants.
In April, Trevor visited Parliament in Dodoma, as part of a task force invited by Mr. Lembeli MP to address the Parliamentary Committee on the elephant poaching crisis. Our message seemed to shock as well as inform MPs, and was carried into the next week’s main chamber session on the annual Environment budget, resulting in pledges for major action from the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism. Examples of the news stories that reported on these debates and announcements can be found here and here.
May was devoted mostly to meetings and fundraising, with the UEP field team again running the Annual Iringa Marathon. Deals were struck with some tourist lodges and camps to sell the increasingly popular “Njokomoni elephant-friendly honey“, ensuring a better price for the farmers.
In June, in collaboration with the Njokomoni Farmers Group and again with the help of Raleigh volunteers, we completed the creation of a community tourism trail (complete with bridges and vantage points) that tours the fascinating environment at the interface between the forest edge of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, and the farms that are being affected by elephants. The idea is to develop community-based tourism to provide some extra income for the farmers, and raise awareness of the local challenges we all face to enhance human-wildlife coexistence in the area.
Throughout July and August, Yale University student Jo Smit worked with our team in Mang’ula, including on our three years of camera-trapping data looking at elephants leaving the forest and entering the farms. We have some very interesting and surprising results emerging from this monitoring, which are of great relevance to management of the problem – and we will be posting more on this very soon. In November and December, we will be hosting two more students from Holland who will be helping us analyse the effectiveness of the beehive and chilli-oil fences that are around the farms…
And in September, we have been preparing for our new project in Ruaha, which begins in October and is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund. We will post more about this project too soon (with more regular updates on our Facebook page). We are happy to be extending into the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, where elephants need all the help they can get…
All the best , the UEP team