The United States and Germany have donated new field equipment to Tanzanian rangers at the Selous Game Reserve as part of a wider effort to combat poaching and illegal trafficking that is worth $40 million over the next four years.
The equipment, which includes small and large tents, flashlights, binoculars, uniforms and boots for use by the rangers patrolling the reserve, was handed over on January 21.
“We have a real crisis here in the Selous (Game Reserve),” said Mark Childress, U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. “It has gotten to the point in the last year or so that its status as a (United Nations) World Heritage Site has become threatened. I think that requires a robust response across the board.”
The event on January 21, hosted by the Tanzania Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, served not only to highlight the equipment transfer, but to showcase the international response to the poaching crisis.
“This is a very special day for the Selous Game Reserve and the effort of the Government of Tanzania in marching toward victory in the battle against poaching,” said Nyalandu.
“The problem goes beyond wildlife trafficking,” noted Ambassador Childress. “It is part of networks that involve illicit trafficking of other sorts and it threatens security not only to Selous, but to other areas as well.”
In addition to the new field equipment, the U.S. is providing Department of Defense resources to assist and train Tanzania rangers to better combat illegal trafficking. U.S. Marines are training rangers on patrolling techniques and vehicle maintenance.
Additionally, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa produced waterproof maps for rangers to use, greatly increasing the durability and lifespan of these essential navigation tools.
“One of the first things we noticed was that the maps the rangers were using were falling apart,” said Ambassador Childress. “We had a discussion and asked the rangers if they wanted new maps. It turns out that was the wrong approach. The right approach was to use maps the rangers were familiar with.
“We got CJTF-HOA to print the maps with waterproof lamination,” noted Ambassador Childress. “Now the rangers have full sets of the maps they are familiar with, but with the lamination the maps can survive in all conditions.”
The fight against poaching is complex due to the size of the reserve and lack of adequate equipment and manpower to properly monitor activity. The U.S. and German contributions are a step in the right direction, but it will take a continued international response to eliminate poaching and help ensure peace and stability in Tanzania.
“If I’m a poacher in Tanzania and I wake up tomorrow and see the news that U.S. Africa Command is here,” declared Childress, “that’s bad news for me.”