African Wildlife Foundation and WildAid, in partnership with Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, are launching a new public awareness campaign, one aimed at educating the Tanzanian public about the severe poaching crisis and building widespread support to protect elephants and other species from the illegal wildlife trade.
Tanzania has lost 60 percent of its elephants in the last five years, mainly because of poaching for ivory. Demand in China and other ivory consuming nations is fueling a black market in ivory, which has lead to the decimation of the East African country’s once thriving elephant herds. Only those criminals and corrupt individuals at the very top of the illegal ivory supply chain in Africa and Asia have benefited from this destruction and are reaping huge profits, while everyday Tanzanians are being robbed of their natural heritage.
“Elephants are at the top of the 'wish list' for most tourists who come to this country, and tourism generates over 12 percent of our gross domestic product,” said The Hon. Lazaro Nyalandu, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism. “Our elephants are a great asset to this country in many ways, and my government is determined to stop the slaughter. But we cannot do it alone. We want to enlist the help of all of our citizens in our efforts to stop the theft of our national heritage.”
Dr. Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation, emphasized that poaching is tarnishing Tanzania’s image as one of the great elephant refuges.
“Tanzania has always been known for its large elephant herds and, together with Botswana and Zimbabwe, is home to half of all of Africa’s elephants,” said Bergin. “The current rate of poaching, however, threatens to erode that distinction. As Tanzanians learn more about the crisis through the campaign, we hope they will work with us to protect this tremendous asset."
In a recent survey of over 2,000 Tanzanians in both rural and urban areas, nearly 80 percent of respondents said that it would matter a great deal to them if elephants disappeared from Tanzania, and over 73 percent said that they associated wildlife with their national identity and heritage.
“All Tanzanians, no matter where they live, are stakeholders in the country's wildlife resource,” said Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid. “The tagline for this campaign, ‘Ujangili Unatuumiza sote’ (poaching steals from us all), is a reminder that those who are poaching elephants and smuggling their ivory to east Asia are stealing from all Tanzanian citizens.”
The joint campaign will use Swahili-language radio and television, social media, newspapers and magazines, billboards and videos in public spaces in order to reach as many members of the public as possible. "We are making plans to ensure that even people living in remote rural villages will have an opportunity to hear our messages,” said Knights.
Celebrated singer Alikiba has become the first Ambassador for the campaign. "I'm honoured to lend any support that I can to this campaign,” Alikiba said. "Our beautiful elephants must be allowed to live, free and wild, instead of ending up as a carving on somebody's coffee table.”
The media and selected guests are invited to attend the launch of the campaign on June 18 at the Slipaway Hotel in Dar es Salaam, where new videos starring well-known Tanzanian celebrities, including Alikiba, will be screened.