Why peaceful coexistence  between people, wildlife vital

COEXISTENCE between people and wildlife is a national priority for sustainable development and wildlife conservation in Tanzania, it has been stated.

As the government moves on to see the country’s tourists attractions thrive to ensure biodiversity conservation, experts on the field have alerted on the need for all stakeholders to have a wide understanding of drivers of Human-Wildlife Conflicts (HWC), human dimension of HWC and diversity of approaches to mitigate HWC.

Mr John Noronha, the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, RTI, a USAID Contractor implementing the ‘USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili’ Project, says HWC is recognised as a subset of human-wildlife interactions, which can be positive or negative, depending on the specific issue.

Speaking at a refresher and master training classes for journalists in Bagamoyo recently, Mr Noronha expounded that HWC is an important topic now, due to its impacts in the country.

The training was coordinated by the Journalists’ Environment Association of Tanzania (JET) and funded by USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili Activity.

It addresses dynamics that threaten habitat connectivity and the long-term persistence of biodiversity in Tanzania. It incorporates a series of interventions that support and strengthen government and civil society capacity for biodiversity conservation in a manner that builds the capacity of the public sector and civil society; increases private sector engagement in conservation and Natural Resources Management (NRM).

Expounding on HWC drivers, Mr Noronha mentioned them as human population growth and the associated increased demand for land and natural resources as protected areas were not designated to encompass entire ecosystems, nor were wildlife corridors and dispersal areas gazette.

Other drivers are increased human use of waterways for economic and domestic activities, insufficient land use planning and climate change.

Mr Noronha insisted that impacts of HWC on social economic front shows that since 2012 to 2019 1,069 human deaths occurred, with 642 temporary and permanent human injuries in the same stint, he noted, in terms of food security 41,404 acres of crops were damaged, 792 livestock depredations, while in terms of financial cost – 4,670,555,300/- consolation payments to Tanzanian citizens who were affected was issued.

“Conflict occurs when the needs and behaviour of wildlife impact negatively on the goals of humans or when the goals of humans negatively impact the needs of wildlife. This includes negative impacts of wildlife on human social, economic or cultural life, and negative impacts of humans on the conservation of wildlife populations,” said the expert.

However, he added that it is important to recognise that human-wildlife conflicts do not result solely from the direct impacts of wildlife on people or vice versa but may often involve disagreements between stakeholders over conservation objectives.

“HWC is a key obstacle to linking conservation and poverty alleviation, as the costs of living with wildlife negatively impact on rural livelihoods and erode community support for conservation. HWC is also an important threat to wildlife conservation, as the fate of many wildlife populations, especially carnivores and large herbivores, is increasingly dependent on their tolerance by people,” he disclosed.

The government of Tanzania sees addressing human-wildlife conflict as a key goal for sustainable development and wildlife conservation in the country, hence stakeholders must work towards human-wildlife coexistence for the benefit of the nation’s people and wildlife.

JET Executive Director, Mr John Chikomo, expressed gratitude to USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili Project for funding the training, adding that JET is actively involved in the media coverage and community engagement on issues of environment and sustainable development, with the aim of raising public awareness on environmental conservation and related challenges.

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