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Elephant and rhino populations in Tanzania have begun to rebound

Wild animals are being poached on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured from their native habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, and other charismatic animals, as well as to smaller and more obscure creatures, like certain lizards and monkeys. 

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, in the last decade alone, Africa lost about 110,000 elephants, with an estimated 415,000 elephants still living on the continent.

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But now, elephant and rhino populations in Tanzania have begun to rebound after a government crackdown dismantled organised criminal networks involved in industrial-scale poaching. Poaching networks in Tanzania brought elephant and rhino poaching to an industrial scale over the past few decades, which is why the government had to double down on regulating the already illegal practice. One way the government did so was by arresting people heavily involved in the trade.

A prominent Chinese businesswoman, dubbed the “Ivory Queen”, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Tanzanian court in February for smuggling tusks of more than 350 elephants to Asia, marking a major victory for the government. President John Magufuli spoke out against wildlife crime when he took office in 2015, urging security forces to arrest all those involved trafficking. Within months, four Chinese men arrested at the Malawi border for smuggling rhino horns were jailed for 20 years.

The country’s presidency said. Elephants have increased in population since 2014 from 43,330 to more than 60,000, and rhinos have increased since 2015 from just 15 to 167. 

“As a result of the work of a special task force launched in 2016 to fight wildlife poaching, elephant populations have increased from 43,330 in 2014 to over 60,000 presently,” the presidency said in a statement. The number of rhinos, an endangered species, had increased from just 15 to 167 over the past four years, it said.

The office of Tanzanian president John Magufuli claims that the rhino population was only 15 in 2015; however, according to The Independent, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species documented rhinos to have a population of 133 at the time. Either way, Tanzania’s rhino population is increasing slowly but steadily, as it’s believed to be at 167 at the moment. 

Tanzania formed a task force in 2016 to combat wildlife poaching, which is the illegal killing of wild animals. Poachers take elephants for a variety of reasons.Typically, for  for their ivory tusks which are used for jewelry and decorating. Rhinos are also poached for their horns to make medicine.

Mark Jones, leader of the Born Free Foundation (an international wildlife foundation) believes that we have to do many things to protect elephants and rhinos in Tanzania even though the elephant and rhino populations are finally significantly rising.

FILE PHOTO: A herd of elephants is seen in the Singita Grumeti Game Reserve, Tanzania, October 7, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

“This sounds like very good news, but we should view these figures with caution until there’s independent verification. There’s no way that has occurred through breeding and protection alone,” Jones said.

“Rhinos mature late, have long gestation periods and don’t produce many young. Both species take a long time biologically to reproduce. Elephants are intelligent.They move across national borders to where they are safer. So if there’s been a clampdown on poaching in Tanzania, it may be that some have moved in.”, he added.

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