Wildlife Management Areas in Africa were created to serve a dual purpose. By granting local communities usage rights over wildlife in designated areas, African countries hoped both to allow communities to benefit from their wildlife while taking an active part in conservation. A new paper in published in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science outlines the current problems facing WMAs, using Tanzania as an example, and recommends possible solutions.
To date there are 16 pilot WMAs in Tanzania, encompassing 135 villages. However, there are a number of challenges facing WMAs, including loss of wildlife habitat and overconsumption of resources.
Elephants in Tanzania. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Agriculture, grazing and settlements have all contributed to habitat loss and fragmentation; as well there is a direct connection between the human density and the decline of wildlife. The study found that in WMAs where the human density was increasing rapidly conservation challenges proved more significant, including the bushmeat trade and unsustainable natural resource exploitation.
Game hunting by tourists and subsistence hunting of some species are allowed in the WMAs, yet, especially in dense areas these allowances need better monitoring to ensure sustainability. In addition, governments must ensure that tourist hunting provides direct revenue for the local communities and isn’t just funneled back to the government.
According to the paper, WMAs can be successful in their dual role if they implement frequent monitoring of wildlife, conservation promotion and outreach programs within the communities, and low capacity building to ensure the sustainable-use of natural resources. As an example, the paper points to successful beekeeping in the WMAs of Uyumbu and Ipole, a program which provides additional income without hurting the environment.
Finally, the study recommends that the formation process for WMAs is simplified. As it is, the complexity of establishing a WMA makes the process slow and cumbersome: some communities have had to wait up to 10 years for WMA status.
Wilfred, P. 2010. Towards sustainable Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (1):103-116.
(05/28/2009) Less than 2 percent of Africa’s tropical forests are under community control, hindering efforts to slow deforestation and alleviate rural poverty, reports a new assessment from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of non-governmental and community organizations.
(03/23/2009) Bushmeat hunting constitutes the most immediate threat to wildlife populations in the Udzungwa Mountains of the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot in Tanzania. A new study, published in Tropical Conservation Science assesses the impact of hunting by comparing densities of mammalian species between the little hunted West Kilombero Scarp Forest Reserve, the medium-hunted Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve and the intensively hunted New Dabaga Ulangambi Forest Reserve.
(03/23/2009) Traditional practices contribute to conservation of medicinal plants in West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania, report Tuli S Msuya and Jafari R Kideghesho in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
(12/01/2008) The Serengeti (Tanzania, East Africa)—one of the flagship conservation areas of the world—is the focus of a new paper published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science by Jafari R Kideghesho and Paul E Mtoni. The authors argue that conservation in the Serengeti needs to be approached as co-management involving sharing of power, responsibilities, and rights and duties between the government and local resource users. They advocate for intensive community involvement and reactivation of local traditional institutions in co-management approaches.
(11/09/2006) With ecosystems ranging from Lake Tanganyika to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is the most biodiverse country in Africa. Though Tanzania is world famous for its safari animals, the country is also home to two major biodiversity hotspots: coastal forests of Eastern Africa and the montane forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains. Tanzania has set aside nearly a quarter of its land mass in a network of protected areas and more than one-sixth of the country’s income is derived from tourism, much of which comes from nature-oriented travel. Despite these conservation achievements, Tanzania’s wildlands and biodiversity are not safe. Fueled by surging population growth and poverty, subsistence agriculture, fuelwood collection, and timber extraction have fragmented and degraded extensive areas that are nominally protected as parks. Hunting and unsustainable use of forest products have further imperiled ecosystems and species. In the near future, climate change looms as a major threat not only to Mt. Kilimanjaro’s glaciers, which are expected to disappear within ten years, but also to Tanzania’s many endemic plants and animals found in its montane forests. Working to better understand these threats and safeguard Tanzania’s biodiversity for future generations is Tim Davenport, Country Director for the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) in Tanzania.