The German government has donated two Husky fixed wing light aircraft to Tanzania National Parks and Tanzania Wildlife Authority in an effort to combat wildlife poaching.
German Foreign Minister Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier handed over the aircraft on 22 November. The aircraft were donated through the Frankfurt Zoological Society to be used to monitor Tanzania’s elephant hotspots, including the Selous Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park. They will patrol for poachers, coordinate forces on the ground and carry out wildlife censuses and habitat monitoring.
The aircraft were handed over at Arusha airport in a ceremony attended by Serengeti Chief Park Warden William Mwakilema, Alan Kijazi, Director of Tanzania National Parks TANAPA, and Martin Loibooki, the Director of the newly established Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA).
The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) will hand over a Husky to Zambia in early 2016 and provide support to the Zambia Wildlife Authority ZAWA. There they will be used to monitor that country’s elephant and black rhino populations.
The Husky A-1C is a two seat light aircraft manufactured by US company Aviat. It features dual controls and has a high wing design, making it ideal for observation and patrol and has been widely used for these roles, including by the US Department of Agriculture and the Kenya Wildlife Service to monitor elephant herds.
Tanzania lost around 85 000 elephants to poaching between 2009 and 2014. The East African country’s elephant population shrank from 110 000 in 2009 to a little over 43 000 in 2014, according to a census released in June, with conservation groups blaming “industrial-scale” poaching.
According the government, the elephant population in the Selous and Mikumi game sanctuaries has declined from 38 975 in 2009 to an estimated 13 084 today. The population in the Ruaha and Rungwe national parks has also declined steadily from 35 461 in 2006 to 20 090 today. International elephant conservation groups says Kenya and Tanzania account for nearly 70 per cent of the African elephants slaughtered by poachers in the last decade.
The additional aircraft are a welcome boost to Tanzania’s anti-poaching efforts. In June 2014 the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism received a Robinson R44 helicopter from the Howard Buffet Foundation but it crashed in December that year, killing four on board. The Tanzanian government had planned to acquire another two helicopters – a Bell 206 and another R44 – to boost the aerial fleet used by game wardens to detect and track down poachers in national parks in the Eastern and Coastal areas of the country, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.