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Tanzania Elephant Conservation

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Tanzanian game reserve elephants may be wiped out by 2022

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Nick Junnings

Elephants in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, the oldest game reserve in Africa, could be eliminated in as little as six years, according to a report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) earlier this week. The US announced on Thursday that it would ban the sale of ivory within the country - a victory for wildlife conservation activists.


An estimated 33,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory.

The number of elephants living in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve has decreased by 90 percent over the past 40 years, with the WWF predicting their potential elimination as early as 2022.

“It’s a really worry trend,” Anthony Fields, a campaign manager at WWF told RFI.

The WWF and other conservation groups have blamed industrial-scale elephant poaching for the large decrease in the number of elephants living in the Selous, driven by the worldwide demand for ivory, which is particularly strong in Asian countries.

The Tanzanian government has rejected parts of the report, saying the analysis was outdated.

“The report has not taken into account of current efforts to curb poaching,” said Gaudence Milanzi, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Milanzi noted the Tanzanian government’s efforts prevent elephant poaching, including the recent prosecution of Yang Feng Glan, a businesswoman known as the “Ivory Queen”.

“They are taking actions and they are good actions,” Fields told RFI of the Tanzanian government. “But that’s not reflected in the trends because it will take time for elephant population to rebound and for elephant populations to come back into the Selous from elsewhere.”

US bans ivory sales

On Thursday the US Fish and Wildlife Conservation Service announced it would ban the sale of ivory in the United States, a move seen as a positive step for elephant protection.

“Closure of demand is what reduces the demand for ivory, so what the US has done is absolutely important in upholding that side of the pillar that reduces or closes the market,” Winnie Kiiru, the country and liaison director for the group Stop Ivory told RFI.

“When the buying stops, the killing will too."

Next week a delegation from the US will travel to Beijing for a series of economic talks with Chinese officials, who also have agreed to tighten restrictions on ivory trade.