(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Elephants cause havoc in the north

[Swaziland] Two elephants from Hlane Royal Game Reserve

Marauding elephants continue to cause havoc in northern Tanzania, where they have destroyed 80 hectares of crops and disrupted learning for children who now have to be escorted to school, an official told IRIN on Monday.

"Some parents are even afraid to escort their children for treatment in clinics for fear of encountering the animals," said Anthony Malley, the district commissioner for Monduli, northwest of the region's main town, Arusha.

Most of the damage caused to food crops has been in Mto-wa-Mbu area in Monduli, a district bordering the Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks.

Malley said the elephants strayed into human settlements mainly because human activities had shrunk animal migratory routes. He said that the animals could also be moving into farms due to a recent increase in their population in the area.

Tanzanian Minister for Tourism Zakia Meghji reported recently that there were at least 120,000 elephants countrywide, compared with 55,000 in 1989.

The chairman of the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Emmanuel Balele, told IRIN his organisation was aware of the situation and was "finding ways to save Monduli residents from the jumbo menace".

He said TANAPA would conduct an elephant census at Tarangire and Lake Manyara parks before taking further action.

The survey, he said, would involve international wildlife organisations, including the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES).

However, Balele urged residents of Monduli to contact game rangers whenever the elephants encroached on their land. He added that some rangers had already been deployed to the area to chase away the elephants.

TANAPA's director-general, Gerald Bigurube, said the increase in the elephant population was because of a ban on ivory trade. However, he said there was no need for culling the elephant herds, as had been suggested by area residents.

Although CITES has banned ivory trade, the government of Tanzania has requested to dispose of 90 mt of elephant tusks it has under tight security. The government has pledged to use the funds from the sale of the tusks for education, health and poverty alleviation projects. Japanese companies have shown interest in buying the tusks.

Tanzania is home to some of the world's best-known parks, such as Serengeti and the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro.

The country received 575,235 tourists in 2004 and the figure projected for 2005 is around 700,000 tourists. The tourists are mainly from the US, Britain, Canada, Italy, Germany, France and Japan.

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