Hunting Tanzania... Kilombero Kronicles 4: A Roar for Help!

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by Shallom, Dec 20, 2009.

  1. Shallom

    Shallom AH Enthusiast

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    Not all is well in the Kilombero... just like most hunting areas in Tanzania, the Kilombero Valley is also under severe pressure from encroachment, which brings with it; cattle, farms, logging & poaching. Of all the pressure on the Kilombero Valley, cattle encroachment has been most painfully felt. Primitive, nomadic cattle pastoralism, brings with it serious destructive practices such as over-grazing, erosion of river banks, drying of water holes, hunting dogs, deforestation, disease and worst of all - POISON!

    Due to the abundance of predators such as lion, leopard and hyena, the Sukuma Tribe (who are the overwhelming majority of invading herdsmen) go out of their way to poison what they consider vermin. There is no crisis with tribal herdsmen protecting their herds. But when they are non-indigenous to the area, unaccepted by the indigenous tribes of the valley and guilty of trespass into a Game Controlled Area, then there is a catastrophic effect. Even worse is the fact that the Kilombero Valley is a RAMSAR SITE (wetland habitat with endemic species and an ecological hotspot) of international importance. As i report this, lions have already fallen in their dozens. One of the densest populations of lion in the world, is today highly endangered!

    This crisis is not a recent development. It has been years in the making. Our first reports to the authorities began in 1995 and were emphasized in 1997 with continued warnings and pleas for intervention by the government every year since 1999. Very little was done by the responsible authorities and our efforts in collaboration with grass roots authorities were repeatedly crushed by political agendas and self serving individuals in high positions. With limited resources and lack of support from governing bodies, we have been fighting losing battles. Last year the encroachment got so severe that people had the audacity to attempt farming a few hundred meters from our permanent tourist camp and cattle were being released to graze all around. This was too much! None of this could be tolerated anymore no matter how incompetent, ignorant or corrupt the system is. Something had to be done.

    Fortunately the District Authority and Police Force do realize the importance of wildlife and rightfully acted in consideration of the National Wildlife Policy and upheld the law. Numerous arrests and convictions in court brought a sigh of relief. Unbelievably, some political members of the district continued to instigate invasion by local villagers to the point of hostility. These were deeds in total disregard to the law and National Wildlife policy. To cut a long story short, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) was activated against us on false allegations.

    Despite threats and forceful tactics, we stood firm knowing that we are the only hope for the wildlife in the Kilombero Valley. An interim order was issued by the CHRGG, stopping us from taking any further action against offenders and allowing villagers to continue in their ways in consideration of their traditional land knowledge from ancestral times (which has since changed due to boundaries which are government registered and passed by law). This was between January - June 2009. There was more encroachment, poaching, poisoning and environmental destruction carried out in those six months than the previous ten years! As a result, most of the Kilombero Valley has been compromised. What was once a thriving wilderness of 6,000 square kilometers has now diminished to 2,000. There is little wildlife and habitat left outside the areas being protected by Kilombero North Safaris and Wild Footprints. Most of the valley (recently prime wildlife habitat) is being illegally occupied by farmers and nomadic cattle herders to this day.

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    You may find this hard to believe, but there is a lot of good news in all of this adversity. The areas still being occupied and managed by us Outfitters are sustainable and better managed. Wildlife has concentrated into these protected and monitored areas, where we run year-round anti-poaching operations and keep a significant conservation presence. The quality of trophies has not suffered and the game is abundant. The key is to follow our own quota off-take rather than the highly outdated government quotas. Strict code of ethics along with sound management ensures that Kilombero is still a special hunting destination for dangerous game. Unmatched for buffalo, hippo, crocodile, lion, leopard, elephant hunting and much more.

    After the crisis getting national attention, the District Authority has been further empowered to uphold boundaries and to observe the law, which should bring an end to any further encroachment problems. One of the new policies about to be implemented is a new protection status known as a "Wetland Reserve". The rules and regulations for this status are almost identical to that of a Game Reserve. The Kilombero Valley qualifies to this new status and we look forward to a speedy implementation so that it once again has the security and stability to thrive as one of the most unique and rewarding hunting grounds in Africa. We are excited about re-establishing the roar of the wild lion as the ruler of his domain once again - as it should be and has been since our earliest days as man. As hunter.

    What inspired me to write and expose some of the internal issues of the Kilombero Valley is what i believe to be "A Roar for Help" by the surviving members of the lion pride around one of our camps. Early in the season, during camp preparation and through the first buffalo hunt, there was no lion roaring to be heard. The Kilombero is the kind of place where lions roar at least every other night and usually in three three different directions. The boys and myself feared the worst. Demoralized, depressed and angry, one evening we went to the "Church Tree", not too far from camp and where i was married in November 2007. We went there to be alone, to pray and to watch the sunset... to reminisce the past and contemplate the future. We discussed how it was never going to be the same hunting in the Kilombero without all our wonderful lions and were trying hard to accept the possibility of The Kings of the Kilombero losing their home. It was heart-breaking.

    As the sun was half way down the Udzungwa Mountain Range horizon, a young lion and lioness emerged from the long grass just a couple hundred meters behind us and slowly walked across an opening, glancing at us every few steps. They stopped at the edge of the opening and stared us down for a few seconds before disappearing again into the long grass. As the light faded, we heard them roar in the next opening. They gave us a full four sequences in unison. We had not moved or said a word since seeing them. Standing at the top of the truck, I imitated a roar and they actually responded with a fifth sequence. I truly believe they were roaring for help. I made a promise that evening...

     

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    Last edited: Dec 21, 2009
  2. Shallom

    Shallom AH Enthusiast

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    The lone tree on the second photo is the "church tree". From the top of it, you can see the entire surrounding area and we use it often for spotting. A truly beautiful spot.
     

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