The elephant may seem like a big, powerful animal but even the mighty elephant has not been left untouched by human greed. Elephant poaching is rampant in many parts of the world and the number of these giant yet vulnerable tuskers is constantly on the decline.
In order to protect elephants, Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, in association with WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation, has launched a new public awareness campaign to inform the public about the severe poaching crisis currently facing Tanzania, and to generate widespread support among civil society for the protection of elephants and other wildlife species.
The campaign plans to use all forms of media and public spaces in order to reach as many members of the public as possible, including the residents of remote rural villages.
Tanzania has lost 60% of its elephants in the past six years, mainly because of poaching for ivory. Very large profits from this illegal activity are made in China and other consumer nations, while Tanzanians are left to bear the cost.
“Elephants are at the top of the ‘wish list’ for many tourists who come to this country, and tourism generates over 17% 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 to stop the theft of our national heritage,” he added.
At a Thursday launch event in Dar es Salaam, Nyalandu also called upon China and other nations to end their “appetite for ivory.”
Award-winning singer-songwriter Alikiba has become an ambassador for the “Poaching Steals from Us All” campaign: “I’m honoured to lend any support that I can to this effort to protect our wildlife,” 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 campaign also features singer Vanessa Mdee, former NBA player Hasheem Thabeet and former Miss Tanzania Jacqueline Mengi. They join a host of international icons including Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Edward Norton, Prince William and David Beckham, who are featured in the “Ivory Free” and “When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too” campaigns.
Religious leaders from fundamental Muslims to evangelical Christians and Anglican and Catholic bishops have also recorded messages and offered their support: “We don’t always agree on everything, but we all agree that poaching and the smuggling of ivory is completely wrong,” the leaders said in a new PSA.
A recent WildAid/ AWF survey of over 2,000 Tanzanians in both rural and urban areas found that more than 79% of respondents said that it would matter a great deal to them if elephants disappeared from Tanzania. Over 73% said that they associated wildlife with their national identity and heritage.