Combining real-world data with awareness campaigns is essential to protecting wildlife and biodiversity says Amiri Bilalama
Tanzania and East Africa have many grassy landscapes and mixed communities of trees, shrubs, and grasses which were described as savanna before the concept of a tropical savanna climate was established in the mid-19th century.
The word is commonly used to describe the existence of vegetation, plant species such as Prickly Acacia, Miombo, Rubber vine, Mesquite, Lantana, and Prickly Pear. A range of herbaceous species (including including rhodes grass, buffel grass and giant rat’s tail grass) have also been introduced to these woodlands, either deliberately or accidentally.
For fauna, all types of wildlife is found here. Tanzania is the home to twigas, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebra buffalo, lions, cheetah, hyenas, African wild dogs, and so on.
Why is protecting biodiversity important?
Biodiversity is important to Tanzanian because of many reasons. Biodiversity provides Tanzanians raw materials meant for production and consumption. In Tanzania, earnings from tourism went up by 8 percent to USD 1,288.7 million in 2019. This was only possible because of the thriving biodiversity.
African culture is closely connected to its biodiversity through the expression of identity, spirituality, and aesthetic appreciation. Indigenous Tanzanians have strong connections and obligations towards biodiversity arising from spiritual beliefs about animals and plants. The famous alternative treatment of COVID-19 in Tanzania (Kujifukiza), also depends on leaves from certain plant species. Biodiversity provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment, and many ecosystem services.
Running out of time to save biodiversity.
‘In every 15 minutes, one elephant is killed’. If this is true we are running out of time to save biodiversity. According to a United Nations report, close to one million animal and plant species face extinction, making it one of the top environmental concerns this year and beyond. Indeed, biodiversity is experiencing an existential threat, with the United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres acknowledging that it is declining at a perilous rate.
The Tanzanian government too has invested a significant number of resources to combat poaching, including employing law enforcement staff, buying patrol vehicles, and allocating money for different anti‐poaching activities.
In addition to this, however, the government should provide data on the extent of the problem. Current data on biodiversity are essential in order to understand what is happening in Tanzania and to help inform what can be done about it. For example, the poaching data would play a significant role in evaluating what has been achieved through these investments. Also, to increase motivation for those of us who work on the anti‐poaching frontline, data on poaching are also essential. The data would tell us how well we are performing. and it is time to bring it up‐to‐date.
Young people should also make communities understand to the extent to which the surrounding community’s biodiversity is threatened and act to save it. For example by afforestation/reforestation, encouraging good farming practices, stopping poaching and illegal bushmeat hunting in areas adjacent to protected areas (reserve and national parks). Not only that but also spreading the awareness toward the importance of biodiversity to society and the world at large.