Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve – Africa’s oldest and largest protected area – and its surrounding ecosystem have lost an estimated two thirds of their elephants in just a few years, according to an aerial census conducted in late 2013. The Selous, once home to Africa’s second largest elephant population, has suffered such heavy ivory poaching that only an estimated 13,000 elephants remain.
The elephant-poaching epidemic continues to escalate across Africa, threatening the future of these magnificent animals. In 1976 an estimated 110,000 elephants inhabited the Selous ecosystem, an area of over 87,000 km2 – twice the size of Switzerland. Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete has warned that without action, we may face an even greater loss.
Due to its outstanding bio-diversity value the Selous has been a “World Heritage Site“ since 1982. In its last meeting, and at the proposal of UNESCO and IUCN, the World Heritage Commission has declared the Selous a “World Heritage Site in Danger”.
Quelling the poaching crisis is crucial for conservation of the threatened wildlife, as well as for Tanzania’s economy. The Selous is one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Africa and an important tourist destination. Protecting the natural resources of the Selous should therefore be a national and global priority.
The Selous was under a similar threat in the mid-eighties of the last century, when elephants had been greatly reduced by poaching. A joint project by the Tanzanian and German Governments managed to halt the trend and rehabilitate the reserve. Elephant numbers doubled again. What was achieved once can be repeated!
The German Government has responded to the current needs and has provided eight million Euros through the German Development Bank KfW for a major Selous project. Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) will implement the reserve management component and has a long-term commitment to the conservation of the Selous ecosystem. This project will start in 2015. Nevertheless, the present crisis requires an immediate answer. While poaching continues, fortunately at a much reduced rate, it is now urgently needed to get the rangers back into the field and on patrol again, day and night, seven days a week and with a high level of dedication.
Several Partners have joined hands with the Selous Game Reserve and the Tanzanian Wildlife Division to react with immediate emergency assistance and bring the menace to a halt. This is the essence of the “Selous Elephant Emergency Project“ (SEEP). It is temporary in so far as it aims to close the gap in support.
Under the SEEP, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development provides a considerable amount via GIZ. This will be complemented by FZS funds through the ‘Selous Security Plan’ and – to a lesser extent – CIC.
Supporters from the private sector have started to provide additional funds or equipment for free or at reduced costs. More partners are welcome to join the initiative. SEEP currently equips the rangers with uniforms, boots, communication equipment, torches and some vehicles for their anti-poaching work. SEEP also assists in management, training and rehabilitation of road equipment.
SEEP PARTNERS: Federal Government of Germany, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Selous Game Reserve/Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC)
SEEP SUPPORTERS: Conservation Force, Shikar Safari Club International, Beho Beho/Selous, Hilleberg Tents/Sweden, Swarovski Optics, TAWISA.
Author: Rolf D Baldus