(eTN) – Several stakeholders in the tourism sector have, following a consultative meeting of the industry in Dar es Salaam in early March, spoken out on the issue of the Serengeti highway and poaching. Some regular sources claimed that some of the reasons were being played down by officials, such as the impact of poaching and the country’s ill-fated attempt a year ago to persuade CITES to allow Tanzania to sell ivory stocks. “They do not want to own up to such failures and the impact of very big negative publicity. When the black rhino was killed in the Serengeti, then they talk and act but generally our enforcement is very weak. A lot of birds are smuggled via Tanzania, a lot of ivory comes from abroad and is shipped via our port or airport. The media pick on it and when it circulates, people abroad think we do not care enough about our wildlife, and they judge us poorly,” said one source from Arusha in response to a question by this correspondent.
Another regular source in Dar es Salaam pointed to the controversy over the Serengeti highway plans which he termed “very bad for our country. This is getting a lot of publicity and has influenced those judging where we rank. Our politicians do not think it is a factor but really it is. There is a combination of things all coming at once, and when we meet, such issues are down played or not openly addressed because you are then considered ‘anti government,’ but really all we are saying is be frank when talking of reasons why we did badly last year. Elections are now over so we should be able to sit down and bring all concerns to the table. It is in everyone’s interest to be candid because unless we solve these problems it will not be good for us.’
Little Rwanda in the global rankings has outfoxed the rest of East Africa and even beaten Kenya by one rank, a testimony for sound governmental policies towards biodiversity, conservation, and a deliberate effort to fund tourism marketing to a point where it can make an impact abroad, a lesson maybe still to be learned by other East African Community member states.
Adds this correspondent in closing: Tanzania is richly endowed with natural attractions but all parks need special protective details by rangers and security organizations to make sure protected areas are not encroached and poaching is halted. Some of the protected areas, like the Serengeti and the Selous, are due for major intrusive projects like a highway and a hydro-electric dam, and added consultations are needed here to ensure that best practice is employed and ALL alternatives thoroughly examined to avoid lasting damage to these ecosystems and maintain their attraction for visiting tourists, now and in the future.