Tanzanian Safari Guides Lead the World in Elephant Anti-Poaching March




DSC_3835---Elepahant Mom and Baby Peering Over Grass Mad - Awesome _Adj light People in at least forty-six cities around the world are gearing up to march tomorrow to protest the unsanctioned accumulation of “wealth”, but this time it isn’t in response to corporate greed and the wealth is not money or even stocks or gold bullion. Rather, it is in response to terrorist and corrupt officials’ greed that robs all of us of perhaps the world’s favorite animal, the African elephant.

Through the first International March for Elephants, to be held October 4th, organizers and participants hope to achieve several lofty goals: educate the youth, cease all trade in ivory, end legal hunting of elephants, increase anti-poaching measures, properly penalize poachers, properly penalize corrupt officials who benefit or orchestrate poaching, and destroy all stocks of ivory.

The U.S. has scheduled a crushing of its multimillion-dollar stockpile of confiscated ivory for October 8, and the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators (TATO), who have spearheaded the Tanzanian movement are also calling for the same, and have sworn to “…never give up on this cause. Projects will continue all year long, and this walk will happen year after year,” says Arusha Elephant March Chairwoman, Vesna Glamocanin Tibaijuka.

The end goal: destroy the ivory market once and for all. Allowing some hunting, some occasional UN-CITES sanctioned trade, or some nationally sanctioned ivory sales produce a blurred line fogging which ivory is legally sold and which comes from poachers – which for the most part is the majority of it globally.

Poaching is bad for nature – elephants are the sole distributors of many seeds that allow the African ecosystem to thrive, and many animals such as the dung beetle rely on elephant dung for their reproduction.

Poaching is bad for humans – we value elephants alive for our own quality of life. Terrorist organizations get significant funding from the sale of poached elephant ivory. Entire cities may collapse as tourism peters out.

Although the terrorist group Al Shabaab is believed to receive as much as 40% of the their funding from the sale of ivory, the determination of those organizing the March is unfettered by their recent attack in Nairobi and the subsequent cancelling of the March in Nairobi, the founding city of this March.

Fortunately, TATO, based in Arusha (the starting line for most safaris in Tanzania and known as ‘The Gateway to the Serengeti’) has offered to help with travel costs for Nairobi-based international reporters to cover the event in Arusha.  Participants in Nairobi have also been encouraged to join Arusha’s March and be hosted by Arushians, their neighbors a mere three hours away.

The elephant-poaching crisis is so devastating that many African countries predict losing this creature completely in as few as seven years. With elephants being poached at rates of 30-50 a day across the continent, African countries not addressing the elephant poaching face notable loss of tourism and the collapse of local economies that rely almost exclusively on elephant-seeking tourists.

TATO has taken steps to empower the Tanzanian media to follow elephant poaching stories by offering financial aid to local journalists to cover basic expenses that would be incurred in traveling to the often-remote areas that poachers target, such as the Selous in southern Tanzania.  The efforts in Tanzania, one of the worst affected countries – elephant populations have dropped at least 50% since 2007 and is now less than 70,000 across the country, with many areas with no elephants to be found at all. Fortunately, now they are organized, TATO has vowed to not go unnoticed nor slink away quietly. For them, the March is just the beginning and will be led by a “Sparkling Elephant” covered in 30,000 glass beads made from recycled bottles.

October 3, 2013

— Valerie Kosheleff, MS, is a freelance writer based in Tanzania, focused on sustainability and anti-poaching, with a background in conservation, evolutionary biology and innovation.