Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania at risk

1

A team of experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned the Tanzania government over continued mineral and commercial activities inside the Selous Game Reserve, the biggest wildlife conserved area in East Africa. The reserve is a popular tourist destination.

In addition, a team from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNESCO headquarters in Paris visited and inspected the Selous Game Reserve in February of this year and released its interactive report on May 19 which warned the government of Tanzania to stop all mining and commercial activities in the Selous Game Reserve.

The Selous Game Reserve, the biggest wildlife conserved area in Tanzania, was listed among the World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 1982 but was later declared a World Heritage site in Danger by the UN body after the government of Tanzania allowed mineral and gas exploration inside the reserve.

The UNESCO report seen by eTurboNews stated that the proposed Uranium mining at Mkuju River, the Stiegler’s Gorge power generation plant, and the Kidunda Dam project would endanger the Selous Game Reserve as a World Heritage site.

IUCN conservation experts said in the report that the reserve will be retained on the list of World Heritage in Danger until the government of Tanzania rectified its legislation to prohibit exploration of oil, gas, and mining in the reserve which cover 55,000 square kilometers and the biggest wildlife conserved are in East Africa.

The UNESCO report further warned over extension of commercial activities related to mining and power generation projects inside the reserve, saying such activities would risk the reserve to be given international status a World Heritage site.

The current Wildlife Conservation Act No. 5 of 2009 (Section 20) in Tanzania allows prospecting and mining of oil, gas and uranium in protected areas of the Game Reserves category including the Selous Game Reserve. There 48 prospective mining concessions overlapping the Selous.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Tanzania, also known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada, said in its recent statement that the Selous Game Reserve, which is home to globally-important populations of elephants, lions, hippos, and African wild dogs, continues to face a number of threats and called the Tanzanian government to secure the Selous’ long-term future.

“Safeguarding Selous will not only protect its globally-important wildlife but also the local communities that depend on the reserve for their livelihoods,” the WWF report reads in part.

“The end of the threat of mining is great progress towards saving [the] Selous World Heritage site. Mining concessions overlapped over six percent of the reserve and would have severely impacted on its ecology,” Dr. Amani Ngusaru, WWF Tanzania Country Director, said.

WWF highlights the proposed Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project as a fundamental threat to the Selous. By creating the largest man-made reservoir in East Africa, the project would profoundly change both the landscape and ecosystems of the World Heritage site, the WWF statement noted.

The construction of a dam would conflict with the World Heritage Committee’s position on large dams within World Heritage sites, conservation experts said.