Poaching and anti-poaching
At national and regional level, poaching, particularly of elephants, remain problematic. Recent census conducted over the Selous – Mikumi and Ruaha – Rungwa ecosystem revealed drastic drop in elephant populations within these large protected areas complexes, despite a large recent anti-poaching operation.
Following growing internal and international pressure, the Government launched in October 2013 a major operation, operation Tokomeza associating police, Tanzania Defense Forces, Wildlife Division and Tanzania National Parks in a move to curve the recent wave of poaching and ivory trafficking, but after less than two months, and despite its success, the operation was stopped by Parliament investigation about alleged human rights abuses.
Internationally the recent London Conference shed the light on the upscale of poaching at international level to organised crime networks, particularly for high value species such as the African elephant. Tanzanian President J. Kiwkewete was among the country representatives to call for a 10 years total moratorium, destruction of existing legal stockpiles, and upgraded cooperation at international level to be able to cope with existing network. The current dominant trend are calls to strengthen the anti-poaching, including adoption of new tools like Un-maned aircraft – also called drones, or an upgrading of existing paramilitary forces. It is doubtful that these kind of measure alone will suffice.
Locally, in the Mlele Beekeeping zone, law enforcement and anti-poaching conducted since 2 years start to be real efficient. VGS are conducting patrol of 10 - 15 days per month, 12 months a year. In the past months there have been several illegal loggers and poachers apprehended by VGS and officers from the Wildife Division or District Natural Resource Office.
In December 2013 a "legal" poacher was apprehended. The trader from Sumbwanga tried to argue when being confronted with the particular status of the BKZ but failed to provide any proper authorisation. The case was reported to the Project Manager of Rukwa Game Reserve and to the District Natural Resource Office of Mlele District.
In end of January 2014, VGS apprehended a truck with a team of 4 people harvesting valuable wood in the BKZ. Despite attempts to influence VGS in view to free the poachers, the case was reported to police in Inyonga.
Despite these efforts, elephants were not captured anymore or observed since 2011. Tracks and dungs have been observed in 2013, but no animal observed or captured. It seems that elephant population of Katavi - Rukwa ecosystem has been seriously impacted by the recent wave of poaching.
Camera traps captured pictures of poachers carrying meat on bicycle at night and gunshots were heard from Mlele camp in July 2012. These events outline the need for a continuous support to IBA from ADAP and / or other partners, for the management of the Beekeeping Zone if the aim is to maintain its biodiversity when ensuring a sustainable delivery of its valuable (from an human point of view) ecosystem services.