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Elephant population drops sharply
in Tanzania’s largest game reserve

DAR ES SALAAM (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian wildlife conservator said on Monday that massive poaching in Selous Game Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southeast Tanzania, has resulted in the population of elephants dropping to 13,000 in 2013 from 110,000 in 1976.

The Selous Game Reserve chief conservator Benson Kibonde told journalists at the reserve that poaching was the main reason behind the decreased population of the elephants.

Selous Game Reserve, covering 50,000 square km, is amongst the largest protected areas in Africa and is home to one of the most significant concentrations of elephant, black rhinoceros, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus and crocodile, amongst many other species.

“In 1976 the reserve had 110,000 elephants but the number went down to 30,000 in 1989,” Kibonde said, adding that this pathetic situation led to the launch of an anti-poaching operation called Operation Uhai.

He said Operation Uhai proved to be successful as the elephant population improved to 70,000.

“But the tidal wave of poaching increased again and resulted in the population of elephants plummeting to 13,500,” he said.

Lazaro Nyalandu, the deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, said the government was in the process of creating a Tanzania wildlife authority that will specifically deal with wildlife conservation.

He said a draft for the establishment of the authority has already been made pending approval by the parliament.

Nyalandu revealed over the weekend that at least 60 elephants were reported to have been killed in various national parks and game reserves within the country after the suspension of an anti- poaching operation called Operation Tokomeza Ujangili which means Wipe Out Poaching.

The operation culminated in the sacking of four cabinet ministers a week ago, well after it had been suspended by the National Assembly in early November this year following reports of violation of human rights.

Nyalandu told a press conference in Dar es Salaam on Sunday that only two elephants were butchered when the operation was going on.

After it was suspended, which is not more than 50 days, he said, more than 60 elephants have been killed - that is to say at least one elephant was killed a day..

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