Nature’s Response To Poaching

female_tuskerlessDo you notice that something is missing from this photo?

As a result of the tremendous pressure from poaching, nature’s response has been extreme as well.  Large numbers of female elephants are now found to have no tusks which eliminate them as targets for poachers!

An elephant herd consists of related females and their young and is managed by the eldest female. Adult males rarely join a herd and lead a solitary life, only approaching herds during the mating season.

The tuskless trait appears to run in families and may have been a result of tuskless females being spared by poachers — tuskless mothers survive in greater numbers and hence have more tuskless daughters.

It’s clear that  tusklessness is on the increase. However, elephants use their tusks as weapons to battle during mating season and as tools to dig for water and roots. Nevertheless, it seems nature is recognizing that poachers are a greater threat to an elephant’s existence than its diminished ability to forage or to mate.


These beautiful elephants were recently photographed in Ruaha National Park Tanzania.

  The Ministry of Tourism & Natural Resources has decided to study the increase in tuskless elephants…read more

Tanzania….A relatively unknown travel destination…What are you missing?

When you first dream of Africa (and its 54 countries) it often entails a vision of the open savannah, the ‘big 5′ game animals, primates and perhaps even dense tropical jungle. Tanzania has all of these as well as some of the most spectacular beaches in Africa. Of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, three are located in Tanzania including Mount Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater and The Great Serengeti Migration.

Swahili Coast
Swahili Coast

My own pre-conceived idea of Tanzania before actually coming to the country was quite limited.  I originally thought that Mount Kilimanjaro & the Serengeti plains were in Kenya, when in fact they are both in Tanzania.  As well, I thought only of the traditional game drive safaris, Massai or perhaps what I had seen in movies like ‘Out of Africa’. Instead I discovered the historic Swahili Coast along with the game drives. Tanzania is also home to Jane Goodall’s research station where she conducted her world famous studies on chimpanzees.

Resting Before The Hunt
Resting Before The Hunt

However, Tanzania in all its glory is not well promoted to potential travelers.  The primary focus has been on the US & UK markets yet there is great potential to reach travelers from Canada, Israel or Argentina for example.

If you want to truly experience Africa, then this is the place to do it, as it is definitely raw and more than a bit exciting.  Seeing the difference in the pace of life between an urban center like Dar es Salaam and a rural fishing village can be amazing!

Tanzania has protected about 40% of its land for the conservation of wildlife though it has not been without some conflict between animals & humans.  With 16 National Parks, there is something of interest for most travelers.

Iringa Red Colobus Monkey

From primate viewing (Udzungwa National Park has 11 primate species, 5 of which not found anywhere else in the world except in the tropical rainforests of Udzungwa Mountain) to exceptional birdwatching (with one of the largest species list of any African country) you can explore many aspects of this amazing destination

Beautiful Bird Species Abound

Photographic & walking safaris add a different flavor  & slower pace for those looking for more ‘outside the box’ adventures and allows you to get closer to nature. So if you are looking for true ‘Adventure in the Heart of Africa’ look no further than Tanzania, where time has stood still and you will be welcomed in true Swahili style by women in colorful attire and men who can teach you a few local words such as “Karibuni Tena”

Colorful Swahili Women
Tembos at Ruaha River

Tembo Insights

As a tourism stakeholder, Tatanca Safaris recognizes that we should take an active role in addressing the issue of dwindling elephant populations in the areas we operate (or Africa as whole for that matter).

Over the past week, I had the opportunity to sit together with two people who are on the forefront of the struggle to reduce the slaughter of the African Elephant in Southern Tanzania.

My neighbour Edmund has been a park warden in Ruaha National Park since 2007 and is now attached to the SPANEST (Strengthening Protected Area Network of Southern Tanzania) project. He helped expand my view of what causes poaching and who are typical poachers.

There are approx 22 villages surrounding the park, and often the youth who live there are without any viable means of income, which makes them easy targets for poaching syndicates.  By providing training on agricultural practices or entrepreneurship, it may help reduce the reliance on poaching income.

As well, there is a change in the movements of the elephants due to the decreased flow of the Great Ruaha River.  An increase in the number of approved (and illegal) irrigation schemes upriver of the park has caused the elephants to range farther in search of water which often brings them into conflict with the local farmers due to crop raiding.

There is also an elephant movement corridor between Ruaha Park and Udzungwa Mountain Park which increases the conflict hotspots.

As well, I spoke at length with Trevor Jones, one of the co-founders of the Southern Tanzania Elephant Project (STEP). They work in both Ruaha & Udzungwa parks. He agreed with the above points which are putting pressure on the elephant population in the parks.

The dry river bed with a herd of Ruaha Elephants
The dry river bed with a herd of Ruaha Elephants

In Ruaha, STEP focuses on ‘monitoring for protection’ which includes identifying the conflict hotspots, movement corridors as well as developing a ID database which includes deaths, births, age structure, and elephant population.

They have asked experienced guides in the park to use a tablet which will enable them to input data when they encounter an elephant while out on safari.

Tourists may also find this to be engaging, as they can help identify and name the ‘tembos’. For example, if one is sighted, it can be found or added to the database by using identifying marks such as tears or holes in the ear, and after being identified and entered 3 times, the elephant will then be named.

In Udzungwa park, STEP has launched a innovative project to address the challenges of crop raiding where bee hive fences have been constructed along the park boundary to deter the elephants.  An added bonus is that the farmers also have another source of income by selling the honey in the local villages as well as the lodges inside the park.

Udzungwa beehive fence - stzelephants.org
Udzungwa beehive fence – stzelephants.org

There is a future plan to expand the beehive fences along the main movement corridors.

Tatanca will be making a contribution from each of our safaris to the STEP project as well as participating in the Elephant ID program as our efforts to help stem the elephant population decline.