Elephant conservation is a national priority in Tanzania, as this country holds the largest population of elephants in East Africa. In addition to their important ecological role as keystone species, elephants are recognized as an important source of national income via nature and wildlife tourism in Tanzania. Over 1 million people visit Tanzania’s Protected Areas every year, contributing to the tourism industry that constitutes 14% of Tanzania’s GDP (WTTC 2015).
However, ivory poaching conducted by international organized crime networks has reduced the country’s elephant population from 109,000 in 2009 to an estimated 50,000 individuals in 2015 . Poaching on such an industrial scale represents a huge challenge to the managers of Tanzania’s elephant strongholds. Long-term, dedicated anti-poaching and intelligence efforts are required to combat the network of poachers and ivory traders that have decimated many populations over the last ten years.
STEP are supporting protection efforts by providing aerial surveillance and monitoring and building capacity for law enforcement in key elephant habitats in southern Tanzania.
Aerial support for Ruaha-Rungwa
STEP has provided over 300 hours of aerial support to the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem since 2014 using cost-efficient light aircraft. Our aerial program is invaluable for detecting illegal activities in this vast ecosystem and for mobilizing operations by ranger teams on the ground. The program also helps us monitor elephant populations. Please consider supporting these crucial protection efforts by funding flying hours and rehabilitation of remote airstrips to expand our bases of operation.
Training rangers in use of GPS and GIS for law enforcement
STEP empowers rangers in their work protecting elephants and ecosystems in southern Tanzania by providing technical support for recording and mapping patrols. We train rangers in the use of GPS units for recording patrols, and assist protection departments with rapid mapping of ranger patrols and operations to analyse patrol outcomes and effectiveness, and adapt law enforcement strategy accordingly. We have trained 60 rangers from Rungwa Game Reserve, Kilombero Nature Reserve, and Selous Game Reserve in the use of GPS units, and 30 rangers in the use of GIS for mapping patrols.
To increase the coverage and frequency of patrols in key elephant habitats, STEP has funded >300 person-days of foot patrols in Kilombero Nature Reserve and provided fuel for vehicle patrols to Rungwa Game Reserve and Khikosi Dhidi ya Ujangili.