Archive for the ‘Environmental and Wildlife Protection’ Category

Every tourist has heard the rule: only drink bottled water in foreign countries. That maxim is especially true for travelers in Tanzania, a still-developing nation where lack of infrastructure often means bottled water is the only safe drinking water.

But the reliance on bottled water comes with one significant drawback: huge amounts of plastic waste in a nation that is only now taking the first steps towards recycling.

One group, however, is turning trash into treasure for their community. Meeting Point Tanga (TICC), a community development organization with a particular focus on education, decided to build an internet café for students entirely out of discarded bottles.

bottle house tangaThe building in progress. Photo: TICC Meetingpoint Tanga

According to TICC director Rugh Nesje, the decision to build using bottles served two purposes: showcasing a better alternative to burning plastic waste, tossing it in dumps, or simply throwing it along the roadside (all of which are common practices in Tanzania); and creating a community space where students can gather safely outside of school hours.

The group used a total of 3,450 bottles of different sizes to create the structure. It’s a small dent in the worldwide issue of plastic waste—the US alone goes through a staggering 29 billion water bottles a year—but it’s a start in a country where thousands of bottles are used every day.

Best of all, the building has some structural advantages; the relative flexibility of the bottles means they can take heavier loads and withstand shocks more easily than rigid building materials like brick.

This low-cost project will have a huge impact on youth in the community, who will be able to freely access the internet outside of school hours, now. Hopefully it can also serve as a model throughout Tanzania, and the rest of the developing world.

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Tanzania is joining a new task force designed to curb poaching of endangered species, as well as to reduce the illegal export and trafficking of ivory in the region. The country will be aided in this effort by the United States, the European Union, Germany, China, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP).

The new coalition is the latest move in a multi-pronged effort to reduce poaching in East Africa, and follows months of increasing efforts by the Tanzanian government to reduce poaching within its borders.

Increased patrols and stricter penalties for poaching have not been enough to end the slaughter, however. According to Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, that will require outside help. Nyalandu noted that international partners must make efforts to reduce worldwide demand for ivory and other wildlife products if the government of Tanzania can ever hope to fully eradicate the problem.

Philippe Dongier, a representative of the World Bank, promised that the development partners will provide Tanzania with much-needed resources, including vehicles, communications technology, weapons, and training.

“We will scale up the efforts and call for action against such illegal activities at the international level,” Dongier added.

The Tanzanian government has promised to not only go after poachers, but to issue stern penalties to anyone found to be in possession of illegal wildlife materials.

“Our aim is to ensure the illegal business comes to an end…we want to save the elephants,” Minister Nyalandu said.

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Rhinos Without Borders has undertaken an ambitious wildlife preservation project: a relocation of extremely endangered black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros from areas heavily affected by poaching to areas where poaching is essentially nonexistent.

The campaign is being spearheaded by renowned wildlife photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Eventually, the goal is to relocate 100 rhinos from South Africa to neighboring Botswana, where there is virtually no poaching.

 Video from Trevolta fundraising site.

In South Africa last year a record 1004 rhinos were killed; with gestation periods of 16 months or more, and a birthrate of just one baby per several years, poaching numbers this high make it impossible for rhinos to replace their populations.

Rhinos Without Borders estimates that the entire process of capturing and safely moving a rhino from South Africa to Botswana should cost about $45,000/animal. Their initial campaign goal is $500,000, which will cover the cost of moving 10 rhinos, plus fees associated with the fundraising.

Currently being run as a crowdfunding campaign, the initiative has so far raised over $176,000, enough to relocate four rhinos. Donors can opt to receive thank you gifts at various contribution levels, or forgo them in order to devote more resources to the animals. Every donation also enters the donor into a raffle for various small donated prizes.

Rhinos Without Borders plans to begin the relocation process in January 2015. By mid-2015, they hope to have the animals on the ground in Botswana, where they will provide ongoing support and monitoring. Once all the rhinos have been relocated, the focus will shift to community outreach and education; Botswana is already a heavily tourist-based economy, and this initiative has the potential to benefit that sector hugely.

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Clashes between local populations and wildlife have always been a problem in Africa; many animals live outside national park boundaries, and farmers and ranchers often find their livelihoods destroyed by these roaming creatures.

Living fences have proven an extremely effective tool for ranchers plagued by large predators (such as big cats), but farmers face a different pest: elephants. Thomson Safaris guests often enjoy evening drinks and snacks around the “tembo fire,” but travelers may not realize that fire serves a very important purpose for African farmers: it’s meant to drive away tembos, or elephants.

This and other prevention methods have so far proven inadequate, and farmers regularly find their fields trampled by wandering herds or even just a single stray elephant. This has led some farmers to kill elephants in order to protect their livelihood. Moreover, over the last 20 years, the human population around the edges of the Serengeti has doubled, causing some concern that such clashes could increase soon.

But a simple solution that got its start in Kenya is catching on in Tanzania: beehive fences.

These inexpensive fences—100 m of beehive fencing costs just $500—have proven extremely effective against elephant-based crop destruction. Elephants (like many animals) are notoriously cautious of bees, and once they encounter a hive, will generally retreat.

beehive fencesA beehive fence constructed in Tanzania.
Photo: Elephants and Bees

The fences are simple; a wire is hung with a series of hives, and any disturbance of one of the hives, or the wire they’re all strung from, will cause all the nearby hives to shake, prompting the bees to fly out and sting (or just drive off) the “attackers.”

Elephants and Bees originally tested the concept in Kenya, where they boast an 85% success rate. In addition to helping protect crops, the hives add a source of income for farmers, who can harvest the honey and sell it as an “elephant-friendly” product.

Moreover, the presence of the bees might directly aid crops; though the evidence is still anecdotal, the bees appear to aid in pollination on nearby farms.

Elephants and Bees has recently been expanding its project beyond Kenya into several neighboring countries, including Tanzania, and local Tanzanian groups (such as the Honeyguide Foundation) are researching the concept for possible future implementation. So far, the fences have been highly successful at blending conservation goals with community needs.

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Traditionally, the Maasai have built boma encampments with thorny acacia fences to protect their herds from predators. Unfortunately, lions and leopards are often able to penetrate these, and slaughter the cattle that make up the Maasai’s livelihood. Seeing them as solely a threat, some Maasai kill big cats in an effort to protect their herds. This practice, in addition to habitat loss, has reduced lion populations in northern Tanzania by some 50% since 2003.

A new series of living fences is reversing that trend, however, allowing the Maasai and predatorial wildlife to live in greater harmony.

Photo: African People and Wildlife Fund

The fences use shoots of African Myrrh trees as “posts,” with chain link stretched between them to fill gaps until they grow and fill out. Once they do, the crowns of the trees, growing outwards in both directions, make the fences impossible for leopards and small lions to climb (chain-link fences alone are regularly scaled by cats). Similarly, their growing root systems help protect against burrowing predators, like hyenas.

Compared to chain link or traditional boma fencing, the living walls have proven both much longer lasting and much more effective against predator intrusion.

Over the past five years, about 360 of these fences have been installed in 12 northern communities. Since installation, there have been no attacks by lions in any of these communities, and villages that might, on average, kill six to seven lions annually are now averaging less than one. This has led to a significant increase in lion sightings in the affected areas.

The project is being funded by the US-based African People and Wildlife Fund. The organization estimates that the living walls are protecting over 75,000 cattle, improving the livelihood of over 7,000 Maasai, and saving upwards of 75 lions each year.

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