July 16, 2011

Pastoralists concerned over carnivores / Acute food shortage in Ngorongoro

The hunter may have become 'the hunted' in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the Maasai community elders claim that their people are now being killed and eaten by wild animals, especially lions. The Maasai representatives, including local elders, Village and Ward Chairmen as well as officials from the Ngorongoro Pastoralist Council told Mr Ezekiel Maige, the Minister of Natural resources and Tourism, that the tribe was now living in constant fear of attacks from wild beasts. It was also among the concerns raised by the official report from the Ngorongoro Pastoralist Council which was earlier on presented to the Minister.

Traditionally, the Maasai youth (Morans) have been known to hunt and kill Lions as mark of brevity during traditional ceremonies, but now the wild beasts are said to kill and eat them instead. "We cannot defend ourselves because it is illegal to kill wild animals, the penalty is 20 years in prison," said Mr Nagol Turere the Chairman of Alaililal Village. However Mr Kimay of Olbalbal reminded that when the same issue arose in Tarangire National Park two years ago when wild beasts escaped the park and started eating livestock in the nearby villages and close to 30 of them were poisoned by the locals. "If the situation continues, I won't be surprised if people here don't start doing the same here," Kimay warned.

Without mentioning the exact number of the victims who were eaten by the beasts, the Olbalbal Ward Executive revealed that people who get killed in the park were simply buried by relatives without the information being disseminated.
Lions, Leopards and Hyenas have been described to be the notorious beasts currently devouring people or their livestock within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the only park in the country where humans are permitted to co-exist alongside Wildlife. The Maasai who are traditional pastoralists also claim to be losing large number of cattle, goats, sheep and other types of livestock through the animals' attacks. They demanded hefty compensation for each livestock eaten by the beasts. There are 50,000 Maasai people currently inhabiting the NCAA together with 13,660 cattle as well as 20,000 goats and sheep. Ngorongoro Conservation Area which attracts 400,000 visitors every year covers 8300 square kilometers.

Lions and leopards number within the NCAA is slightly more than 100. The carnivores are reported to turn onto livestock during drought spells when most of the herbivores migrate elsewhere looking for green pastures. "We are going to compensate every human being killed in the park, though of course the money paid will just be consolation contribution because a person's life can never be compensated," The Tourism Minister responded. Mr Maige also pointed out that through the revised Wildlife Act 5 of 2009 the government will be paying owners 50,000/- per every cow killed by wild animals and 25,000 if the killed animal is a goat, sheep, lamb or donkey while poultry will attract 10,000/- compensation payment. "The compensation for each livestock killed by dangerous animals, applies everywhere in Tanzania not only within Game Parks," the Minister maintained.

In the meantime, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) has disbursed Shs. 535 million to buy maize and distribute it to hundreds of residents living in the area who are in dire need of food. There are more than 60,000 people in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, mainly Maasai Pastoralists, now facing famine due to the prevailing drought and also due to the fact that farming is not allowed in the area. The Chief Conservator of the NCAA, Mr. Bernard Murunya revealed about relief food distribution recently when he was speaking to the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr. Ezekiel Maige who visited the villages. The minister heard complaints that the villagers were facing famine.

Mr. Murunya said so far NCAA has procured 278 tonnes which were expected to be distributed to the residents. They were also applying a permit from the Minister of Agriculture, Co-operatives and Food Security, in order to buy maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). Speaking after the report, Mr. Maige directed NCAA to expedite distribution of maize to the residents who are in dire need. "Start immediately to distribute maize in collaboration with the council of pastoralists and accomplish the process of procuring maize from SGR," said Mr. Maige and noted that one of the objectives of NCAA was to develop the residents living in the protected area. Therefore, they should ensure that nobody dies due to hunger. Speaking on subsistence farming in the protected area, he said, the Government after banning farming in the area in 2009, it is now conducting research and when completed the findings would be divulged and action taken based on it. Earlier, the residents complained that they were facing famine and they were no efforts being done to assist them. They asked for subsistence farming to be allowed in the conservation area. (Arusha Times)

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