Community-Based Wildlife Conservation Efforts Succeeding in Tanzania

- by Dain Helmers

When we look at the latest environmental news items, we unfortunately don't really expect there to be a lot of good news.  However, wildlife conservation efforts in Tanzania are yielding just that.

Wildlife populations in Tanzania have been in decline for several decades, as animals have been poached extensively and their habitats degraded by the expansion of farming and mining.  In the past, most wildlife management areas in Tanzania (as well as in most other places) have been managed by central governments.  This had often lead to inefficiency and mixed results, as well as the needs of the local people being ignored.  However, Tanzania (as well as many other countries) have been shifting towards decentralizing these efforts and turning resource management and user rights over to the communities that are affected.  The residents have set aside land to be designated as Wildlife Management Areas, in exchange for the majority of the tourism revenues from those areas.  (Eco-tourism is the largest sector of the Tanzanian economy)

Scientists from the Wild Nature Institute (WNI) have documented significant increases in the density of giraffes and dik-diks, and a marked decrease in livestock density.  Dr. Derek Lee of WNI said that "There have been social and economic critiques of WMAs, but the ecological value or success of WMAs for wildlife conservation had never been quantified. Our data demonstrated that WMA establishment and management had positive ecological outcomes in the form of higher wildlife densities and lower livestock densities. This met our definition of ecological success, and hopefully these results will encourage more community-based conservation efforts."

This shows that community-based conservation efforts can be both effective at accomplishing their intended goal, while also being beneficial to the people that live in the area.  Too many times, conservation efforts have unfortunately stripped people of their land or removed agency from them in another way. A community-based solution makes sure that necessary steps can be taken while also ensuring that humans do not suffer economically as a result.  Biodiversity can be maintained in a mutually beneficial way, and I hope that the positive societal trend in community conservation continues.

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