Worldwide, elephants are currently considered as vulnerable. And rhinos are categorized as endangered, thanks to the many poachers. But surprisingly, the rhino and elephant populations in Tanzania are increasing significantly.
The government of Tanzania has declared the official numbers. Elephants in the country stood at a bit over 43,000 in 2014 but 2019 figures stand at 60,000 and counting. But the most surprising figures are those of the rhinos. From a meager 15, the anti-poaching task force of the country has managed to push the number to nearly 170 in just two years!
Sky News reported these figures from the Tanzanian government two months back. The true impact of the task force can be understood with the following numbers. In 2009, the official number of elephants in the country was 110,000 but by 2014, poachers slashed nearly half of the population.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 13, 2019
The President’s office claims that there were only 15 rhinos in the wild in 2015. But The Independent reported that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species had a count of 133 rhinos in 2015.
Mhe. Rais Magufuli azindua Hifadhi ya Taifa ya Burigi-Chato. pic.twitter.com/CMt0AVRd54
— Gerson Msigwa (@MsigwaGerson) July 9, 2019
The reason behind this increase in population of the wild animals is the task force. Created in 2016, the team had to tackle the wildlife poachers of Tanzania. Poachers are after elephants to procure their tusks and rhinos are rampantly killed to get a hold of their horns. Ivory tusks are used to make jewellery and even decor, and rhino horns find their way in Chinese medicine as well as a symbol of status.
Apart from the tusks, elephant meat fetches quite a price as well. But not just poachers are responsible. Even tourists go for trophy hunting. They kill the beautiful animals as an act of prowess and display the cut off heads as decor!
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Al Jazeera probed further. Extremely well-organized networks of Tanzanian poachers even managed to push the killing of these animals to an industrial level in the last few decades. This forced the government to tighten the noose around this practice which was already illegal. One major step was the arresting of the major kingpins of the trade.
NPR had reported the 15-year sentence of the “Ivory Queen” by the government earlier in 2019. She was responsible for smuggling over 800 odd pieces of ivory to China from 2000 to 2004 itself and has been in the business for a decade.
The rhinos are making a comeback! 🦏https://t.co/THzt8gvdcf
— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) July 15, 2019
All this seems nice and good. But the leader of Born Free Foundation is far-sighted. He is happy with the government’s figures. But he also understands that there is much more work to do to properly protect rhinos and elephants in Tanzania.
Jones takes the government’s numbers with a pinch of salt. He explains how both these species take very long to reproduce naturally and have lower numbers of off-springs. Protection and breeding alone could not have resulted in these number, Jones believes. He is of the opinion that some animals may have moved to the country, which added to the government’s numbers.
While the numbers are yet to be verified by independent sources, the government’s efforts must be acknowledged. Every newborn of these species now gets more protection than the last due to the efforts of the ones who care.