Poaching in East Africa

One of my favorite things about living in Tanzania is the amazing diversity of ecosystems in this country – the grassy plains of the Serengeti, mist-shrouded slopes of volcanic mountains like Kili and Meru, vibrant coral reefs of Mafia and Mnemba islands, the waterfalls and forests of the southern highlands, and the semi-wooded savanna of the Selous all come to mind.

Mikumi savanna.  Image credit: Brad Kremer

Mikumi savanna.
Image credit: Mr Kremer

Habitat diversity like this gives rise to an incredible level of biodiversity, with a large number of endemic species found across Tanzania: Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, Pemba flying fox, the kipunji monkey of the Udzungwa Mountains, Ancistrorhynchus refractus orchids from the Kitulo plateau, plus several native chameleons such as the Usambara two-horned chameleon (pictured below) and the Uluguru one-horned chameleon. Follow this link for a more complete look at Tanzania’s Living National Treasures.

West Usambara two-horned chameleon.  image credit: http://mitschis-chamaeleons.de/

West Usambara two-horned chameleon.
image credit: http://mitschis-chamaeleons.de/

Sadly, Tanzania’s diversity is threatened by a rapidly-growing and highly-lucrative practice – poaching. Most poachers don’t kill or capture animals because they’re inherently evil people; instead, most of them do it because it’s the easiest way for them to earn enough money to feed their families. Food on the table trumps a pretty landscape pretty much every time.

But how does poaching impact Tanzania? What are the effects on the food webs in our beautiful national parks? What are the economic and social pressures on communities near these reserves to either actively participate in poaching or turn a blind eye to it? How does poaching’s links to organized crime influence local and national politics? These are the questions you should address in your next assignment – People and Poaching in East Africa: a One World Analysis.

Below, once again, is the UN document outlining the links between poaching, organized crime, and the illicit drug trade in East Africa. It’s a little dense but still pretty fascinating to read, if you ask me.

Here’s another presentation on elephant poaching, which links east Africa with the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

And lastly, check out this AFP article about a hunting group in Texas, USA, which wants to sell a permit to kill one endangered black rhino in Namibia as part of an effort to save the species. What do you think of this approach?

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