AS I am writing this article like everybody in and outside Tanzania, I am grieving because our nation is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of His Excellence Dr John Pombe Magufuli, a visionary leader who devoted his all life to this great nation and its people, the Almighty God gave and now has taken away, may his name be praised!
Meanwhile to understand what the late president did to this country it will be good if we refer what Nyerere said in 1961 on the Arusha Manifesto “in accepting trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.
On the other side, to celebrate our great and dear leader’s beautiful life, it will be good if we look back on what the late President Magufuli did to promote conservation activities in Tanzania, after the imprisonment of the Ivory queen in 2016.
The country recorded a tremendous achievement because the woman is suspected of smuggling to different countries in Asia about 350 tusks which originated from not less than 175 elephants, which were poached in different parts of Tanzania. Due to what happened in the past the number of elephants in the country fall to about 43,330 in 2014 but their population increased to more than 60,000 in 2016.
One may ask different questions about the baby elephant boom but the answer is so simple, compared to other animals, elephants have larger brains not only that elephants are really smart by non-human standards because they are capable to use their brains to create and process complex social interactions and seem to even model things such as empathy.
This ability enables them to avoid roaming in dangerous place and move to safe place, when the government of Tanzania managed to control poaching activities elephants from Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi moved to Selous game reserve.
In 2019, it was decided by the Government of Tanzania that to further develop and enhance tourism in Selous, the largest game reserve in the world, the northern part of the reserve will be excised to form the new national park to be known as the Nyerere National Park, in honour of the first President of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
In 1961, during the inauguration of The Arusha Manifesto Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere the founding father of our nation said, “The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa “These wild creatures mid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration but are an integral part of our natural resources and of our future and well being.”
Covering about 30,893 square kilometres, the park is the largest national park in Tanzania and also one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries. Stretching from Matemwe, the park covers parts of Morogoro, Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma regions.
Nyerere national park is larger than 70 countries in the world and is estimated to be twice the size of Costa Rica, a country in Central America and the park is estimated to be about twice the size of Belgium in Europe, but zoologists say much of the area of the park is in a natural state without being disturbed by human activities.
Nyerere National Park is home to several species of wildlife such as lions, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, hippopotamuses, rhinos, antelopes, hyenas, African wolves, and a large number of crocodiles in the Rufiji River. The new national park also known for its prolific population of African Wild Dogs.
Before that, about 8 per cent of the Selous, which was larger than Switzerland, was dedicated to photo tourism while the rest was for hunting activities and that caused the president to decide to divide the massive are of the game reserve, “Tourists come here and kill our lions, but we don’t benefit a lot from these wildlife hunting activities,” Magufuli said.
“I want the Selous Game Reserve to be split into two. A bigger area of the wildlife sanctuary on the upper side should be turned into a national park where hunting activities are not permitted.” Although the late president did not specify the size of either area but said the move would “preserve our wildlife species and boost the growth of the tourism sector”.
Magufuli made the announcement during the inauguration of construction work for the $3 billion Rufiji hydroelectric project at Stiegler’s Gorge, inside the Selous reserve. Magufuli said the project would take up only 3 per cent of the wildlife sanctuary. “Tanzania is among global leaders in conservation activities, having allocated over 32 per cent of our country’s total land to conservation,” he said. “Nobody can teach us about conservation.”
After the arrest and imprisonment of the Ivory queen the late president said “We are not going to allow our natural resources to be depleted,” Magufuli said, that while offering federal security agencies his full support and urging them to arrest all those involved in this illicit trade. Additionally, the late president said “I am behind you,” he said, “protect our elephants from being slaughtered.”
Previously and even now, Selous Game Reserve and by extension, Nyerere National Park, was home to a large number of elephants but due to poaching, the numbers have dropped somewhat and it is now hoped that converting part of the reserve to a National Park will help control and minimize poaching.
In 1961 Mwalimu Nyerere said “The conservation of wildlife and wild places calls for specialist knowledge, trained manpower and money, and we look to other nations to co-operate with us in this important task-the success or failure of which not only affects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world.”
On his side president Magufuli urged Tanzanians to establish zoos, wildlife and nature sanctuaries dedicated towards conserving and preserving plant and animal species. The late president made an appeal to Tanzanians to come up in big numbers and set up zoos across the country as one way of conserving wildlife and preserving nature.
“The country has already a few individuals who have established zoos. I urge more people to do the same,” To encourage those who were interested in investing in this sector the late president said “There are many countries in the world, including South Africa, that are benefiting from keeping wild animals in zoos. Tens of hundreds of tourists visit the zoos”.
The late president also handed over 100 peacocks to former presidents to recognise their efforts in the caring of birds while they were still in power at the state house.
In the special event which took place in Dodoma, former presidents received 25 peacocks each and these were Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Dr Jakaya Kikwete, while Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was represented by the widow, Mama Maria Nyerere.
The handover of the beautiful birds to the former presidents was possible after the number of peacocks increased from 403 in 2015 to 2,260 thanks to efforts put to multiply the birds. The birds have been a symbol of conservation activities with long history since there has not been such species in the country and Africa at large because they were brought by the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, during his administration.
All these and others show the determination of President Magufuli’s administration in the conservation of the country’s natural resources and using them for the benefit of Tanzanians and boost economic growth.
For example, in just five years of his tenure of office, the fifth phase government increased the number of national parks in the country to 22 from 16 in 2015, a move that has boosted revenue of the tourism sector through national parks. At this time when the nation is grieving because of the loss of Dr John Pombe Magufuli our great and dear leader we need to come together and pray for his to rest in internal peace. God bless Tanzania!