While Richard's team are going to have a big impact on how the poachers work, in Tanzania the situation is very different:
Just south of Amboseli on the Tanzanian side is a huge area of community-owned land called Longido. It is here the poachers will run from Richard’s team, and it is here that they well seek safety before they return again to try another attempt in Amboseli, or just stay in Tanzania and poach these huge open plains.
Teams of poachers drive out in pick-ups at night with no fear of being caught and blind the animals with bright torches. They then just walk up to them with machetes. The rest is too grisly to describe.
The reasons why poachers will find this safety in Tanzania is that all the current small community scout patrols in Longido are working like independent islands. They are not working as a team, and all are under-funded, under-equipped, and have little incentive to go and scout the area. Thus it is so much easier to poach in Tanzania, compared to the comparatively more unified approach in Kenya.
This is going to be our main challenge, to get the teams that are currently operational in Tanzania to work as a team. We all have the same aims, yet each of these efforts by the villages or small tourist camps and the wildlife management area (this is an area of land that is set aside by village governments for the purpose of biological natural resource conservation) are not joining forces.
Everybody must work together and not give the poachers this chance to duck into to safety of "somebody else’s area". Honeyguide/Big Life will conduct extensive research in the area to find out and gather all the information that is out there: who is working where, how their operations are set up, where are the gaps; what do they need to help set up and develop one approach.
We will have one strategy that will unify all the different scout groups and link them with Richard’s teams in Kenya, so that when the poachers try to run ‘next door’ for cover, somebody will be there waiting for them.
We will also shortly be placing someone on the ground - a dedicated passionate conservationist with experience with community scout patrols - who will be out there constantly, to see what these scouts are doing right, and what they are doing wrong, to help effectively plan patrols and arrests as a team with Richards’s men on the other side of the border.
Right now the border between the two countries is the Achilles heel of the conservation actions. We have to fix this quickly. This is our number one priority area.
The tricky side of conservation is the politics, getting all the various political support for any anti-poaching efforts, making sure we have the backing of the government. On the 26th September, the Citizen newspaper reported:
"Senior government officials have admitted that Tanzania’s image abroad has been dented by the continued seizure of large quantities of animal trophies in various parts of the world. The indiscriminate killing of animals by poachers was also undermining the country’s conservation efforts, they said. They therefore called for intensified anti-poaching operations involving all law enforcement agencies".
With this in the news, and the right timing, we will be able to gain the necessary political support, but here in Tanzania, the general elections are taking place in October, so we are at the height of the campaigning period over the next month. Only in November will life return to normal.
So for us to start up any new scout teams will not be possible until these elections are over. That is when we can meet the district authorities. This is essential, as we need to have everyone on board, including the police, wildlife department, and all the various government departments.
We have to make sure that the poachers who are pressured to move out of Kenya due to the increased security in the area do not think that Tanzania is going to be a walkover. We have to get all the teams to work together as quickly as possible. We have to increase the odds against these poachers. This is going to be a timely process, but it must start now.
Are we late? Yes. But if we act now, we will not have been too late.