DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Conservation efforts got a boost in Tanzania, thanks to journalists establishing a movement aimed at beefing up media coverage on the drive.
Dubbed Tanzania Journalists for Conservation (TJC), the major objective of the movement is to set conservation agenda to the media.
“Currently, conservation issues barely enjoy media attention in Tanzania despite the fact that they directly touch livelihood of the majorities, given the natural resource-based economy of the country,” Adam Ihucha, one of the TJC founding members.
Speaking during the launch of the movement held in Dar es Salaam on Friday (August 12, 2016), Mr Ihucha observed that there was ad hoc coverage of conservation undertakings in the Tanzanian media.
“The only time conservation issues enjoy front page space and prime air time in print and electronic media, respectively, in Tanzania is when poachers kill elephants or rhinos in our national parks,” he said.
The launch of the TJC movement on Friday was symbolic, as it coincided with the World Elephant Day observed every August 12, aimed at bringing attention to the urgent plight of both African and Asian jumbos.
The escalation of poaching, habitat loss, human elephant conflict and mistreatment in captivity are just some of the threats to both African and Asian elephants.
Indeed, Tanzania has dedicated nearly 28 percent of its surface area of 945,203 square kilometers to wildlife conservation – an area bigger than its northwestern neighbor country, Burundi, but now the East African natural resources-rich nation, faces a myriad of conservation challenges.
Poaching ranks high, among others, threatening the wildlife and ultimately a thriving multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.
Other threats are loss of natural habitat through human activities incompatible with conservation interests such as cultivation, overstocking of livestock, deforestation, use of pesticides and other pollution.
Mr Ihucha said that of all, poaching menace was great threat to tourism industry, its related jobs, revenues and the whole value chain, and soon than later, there would be nothing to attract visitors.
Wildlife tourism in Tanzania continues to grow, with more than 1 million guests visit the country annually, earning the country $2.05 billion, equivalent to nearly 17.6 per cent of GDP.
Additionally, tourism provides 600,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians; over one million people earn an income from tourism.
Indeed, not to mention the value chain of tourism which supports, parks, conservation areas and now community based wildlife management areas (WMA’s); the tourists’ dollars trickle down to farmers, transporters, fuel stations, spare parts suppliers, builders, tent manufacturers, suppliers of food and drink.
As if that was not enough, the government itself milks tourism with multiple taxes and fees, including the recent imposed 18 per cent value added tax (VAT) on tourism products and services.
“My view is that our reputation as the number one conservation play globally will soon be compromised, if we don’t end the wanton elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade which is now at industrial level,” Mr Ihucha explained.
Over the past six years, more than 80,000 of the country’s elephants have been slaughtered for their ivory, representing a 60 per cent of population, in yet another sign that humanity could soon drive the great pachyderms to extinction.
The startling new estimates made public in June 2015 by Tanzania government show that the population of Jumbos fell catastrophically from 109,051 in 2009 to 43,330 in 2014.
Mr Ihucha extended his gratitude to Serengeti Preservation Foundation (SPF) for its cooperation in making the TJC dream come true.
The SPF director, Mr Meyasi Mollel, commended the TJC founding members for realising the importance conservation agenda, vowing that the SPF would closely work with them.
The TJC objective is three pronged: Conservation agenda setting, inculcating specialised reporting and recognising outstanding reporters covering the beat.
Officiating the ceremony, the executive secretary of Media Council of Tanzania, Mr Kajubi Mukajanga, said it time Tanzanian journalists to depart from event-based reporting to the agenda setting one.
“Specialisation will go along way in changing the existing news reporting trend in the country,” he said.