Category Archives: Policy

Debating in London: To Trade or not to Trade?

The Big Earthwatch Debate at the Royal Geographical Society in London this year addresses the big question of whether trading in wildlife parts can help to  save endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

We are very much opposed to trade of this kind, believing it only contributes in the long term (and in some cases the short term) to the demise of these species. Dr. Kate Nowak is on the anti-trade team at this debate, which will begin at 7pm next Thursday, 17th October.

If you are interested to watch but cannot get along to the RGS, you can livestream the event, and put questions to the panel live over the internet.

Go Kate!

rhino

2013: The year so far…

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…

olifants

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.

mzinga maua

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.

Abbas_Mtandika

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.

Elephant Poaching_Bunge 23rd April 2013.v4

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.

honey jar_prototype

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.

NatGeo putting microphone on Ponjoli in between chili-oil and beehive fences

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.

paulo & jo_CTSamir_med

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…

USFWS

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

Tanzanian National Elephant Management Plan launched

TEMP front cover

Click on this image to download the whole document (7MB)

The Udzungwa Elephant Project are proud to have been involved in the epic collaborative effort to bring this important document into being. I worked for a year and a half alongside TAWIRI and WCS staff in Arusha, and around the country collecting data on the major elephant populations, to assess the current status of Tanzania’s elephants. We also surveyed officials from all 108 districts of Tanzania to understand patterns and trends in human-elephant conflict. Workshops around the country gathered input and opinions from stakeholders, and finally 70 experts represented Tanzania in a gruelling 3-day workshop to finalise all the objectives, targets and actions required to conserve and protect the country’s amazing elephant populations and habitats over the next five years and beyond. Lots more hard work now lies ahead to ensure that the Plan does not just gather dust on shelves.

Everyone reached agreement on nine national ‘strategic objectives’, representing the most important challenges facing elephant conservation in Tanzania, and the Udzungwa Elephant Project has adopted the top three (plus of course number 6!) as the main focus of our work:

1. Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC)

2. Elephant Corridors

3. Law Enforcement

4. Benefits/Sustainable Utilisation

5. Management of Ivory Stockpiles

6. Research and Monitoring

7. Elephant Health and Welfare

8. Cross-border Cooperation

9. Elephant Information Management

The Plan is ambitious, but we have to strive as best we can towards the targets that are laid out under each objective. Please download and give it a read, and if you can help in any small way towards Tanzania’s noble vision to “be a world leader in elephant conservation”, then do not hesitate!

Planning for the Park

When designing new projects, whether they entail research, training for students, technical support to the national park or help for communities, we always hope that our work will in some way, however small, benefit the elephants of southern Tanzania, and help with conservation of their habitats. It is a challenge for us – and all researchers – to not only make our work relevant to real-world problems, but also to link the results and the recommendations that flow from our work, to the practical day-to-day stewardship of the landscape and natural riches of the place where we work. Therefore it has been a genuine honour to be invited to help write the Ecosystem Management section of the new 10-year General Management Plan of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park – one of the most stunningly beautiful places in Tanzania (and thus the world!). Thank you so much to Dr. Fortunata Msoffe (Chief Park Warden) and Mr. Paul Banga (Ecologist) for this opportunity, and we look forward to continued close collaboration for many years to come.

By the way, on this subject of the real-world responsibilities of researchers, here is a link to a good recent paper.

Elephants, Ivory and Trade

Over the last several weeks, I coordinated a multi-author Science policy paper (initially submitted as an opinion piece to and rejected by the journal Pachyderm) arguing against resumption of the ivory trade until better data become available.  We recommended that CITES make consultation between neighboring countries that share elephant populations
compulsory when one of them petitions CITES to downlist and trade. Following its publication, I was invited to discuss the issue on BBC’s Science in Action program.

Our article is available on Save the Elephants website: Elephants, Ivory and Trade.