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Wildlife Management Areas in Africa require changes to become sustainable

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.

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