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Antipoaching Efforts in Tanzania » Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

Antipoaching Efforts in Tanzania

May 20th, 2010 by amariagreer Leave a reply »

Antipoaching campaigns have been at the heart of many internationally funded environmental efforts in Tanzania and have led to some of the worse tensions between conservationists and rural residents.  The Frankfurt Zoological Society has funded vehicles, aircrafts, uniforms, radios, and firearms for the Serengeti National Park since the late 1960s (Shelter; Frankfurt Zoological Society).  The Frankfurt Zoological Society is responsible for the joke that Tanzania’s rhinos are better protected than Tanzania’s president, because of the radio collars and twenty-four hour protection this organization has provided for rhinos (Igoe).  The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is probably best known for its 1988 fundraising campaign “Save the Elephants,” which highlighted the effects of poaching on Africa’s elephants (African Wildlife Foundation; Igoe).  The AWF has also been a heavy supporter of antipoaching through both a provision of equipment and initiatives to reduce the market demand for poached products.

Antipoaching work upsets park neighbors not just because it excludes them from natural resources and grazing lands.  In Tanzania, sports hunters can buy permits for areas where subsistence hunters are not allowed.  Much more significant, though, are the human rights abuses caused by the arming of park rangers.  Rangers have been known to physically assault illegal hunters or cattle grazers during arrests (Igoe and Brockington).  In Tanzania women do not venture too close to parks, because they fear being sexually assaulted.  Although these incidences do not occur frequently, when they do occur the news spread rapidly and deeply impacts the already tense relationships between Tanzania’s park authorities and rural populations (Igoe).

In an effort to try to build better relationships with local Tanzanians and reduce poaching, international environmental groups, such as the AWF, have been working on community-based conservation.  Community -based conservation is the engaging of rural communities in natural resource preservation to generate income for participatory communities and facilitate better relationships between environmental efforts and park neighbors (African Wildlife Foundation; Barrow; Tanzania National Parks).  While some critics of community-based conservation point out that some methods of community-based conservation are aimed at controlling the use of land outside of national parks,  not all projects fit this description (Brockington).

An example of a project that does not fit this description is the AWF cultural boma in the Maasai Steppe Heartland. Tourists are charged an entrance fee into this USAID sponsored site, but then have the opportunity to watch cultural dances, engage with indigenous women and purchase handmade products such as necklaces.  This program is specifically meant to empower women, as they are given control over the business.  AWF helps support this project by providing business advice and advertising the cultural boma to tourist companies.  Though AWF does not describe in its materials on the cultural boma how this project is related to conservation, AWF does hope that the women of the cultural boma will promote conservation within their communities (African Wildlife Foundation).

Another project, run by the Tanzania National Parks and AWF, consists of workshops and training sessions with rural communities.  Aimed at community leaders, the workshops educate people on how natural resource management can be profitable.  These workshops also include skills training sessions in basic accounting and technology use (African Wildlife Foundation; Tanzania National Parks).  These training sessions, in contrast, are aimed at women and the farming members of communities.  These sessions try to encourage individuals to start businesses using environmentally sustainable practices (African Wildlife Foundation; Severre).

Conservation is a tricky business.  There is a lot to be said about the benefits of biological conservation, but excluding people from resources that they had depended on for their livelihood has serious ramifications. Although I find projects, such as the training sessions and cultural boma run by AWF, to be important first steps in engaging communities near national parks in resource conservation and sustainability, I think biological conservation needs to be re-imagined.  I think there needs to be a shift from a human-nature dichotomy.  Humans depend on their local environment, like other mammals. Working with locals on local solutions that promote sustainability and ecological conservation within the community can empower women, and men, without disempowering them first and subjecting them to human rights abuses, such as violent displacement, sexual assault, and the inability to access basic resources. I think conservationists will find themselves more readily welcomed and their projects more effective if they try this approach instead of continuing to buy up land or push for national parks that displace local peoples.


African Wildlife Foundation. African Wildlife Foundation. 2 Feb. 2009.<http://www. awf.org/>.

Barrow, E. Community Conservation Approaches and Experiences from East Africa. African Wildlife Foundation Discussion Papers Series: Community Conservation Discussion Paper No. 4. 1998.

Brockington, D. 2002. Fortress Conservation: the preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania. Bloomington, I.N.: Indiana University Press.

Frankfurt Zoological Society. Frankfurt Zoological Society. 3 March 2009.< http://www.zg f.de/?id=65&language=en>.

Igoe, J. 2004. Conservation and Globalization: A Study of National Parks and Indigenous Communities from East Africa to South Dakota. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson.

Severre, E. Community Tourism Gateway to Poverty Reduction. 2002. United Republic of Tanzania, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism: Wildlife Division. Paper presented to IIPT 2nd African Conference on Peace through Tourism.

Shelter, J.B. 2007. Imagining Serengeti: A History of Landscape Memory in Tanzania from Earliest Times to the Present. Athens, O.H.: Ohio University Press.

Tanzania National Parks. Tanzania National Parks: The official website. 2008. 1 March 2009 <http://tanzaniaparks.com/>.