Wildlife Management Areas in the 21st Century

Data helps more than 500 village game scouts more effectively monitor species in Tanzania

Outside of Tanzania’s national parks, lands set aside as wildlife management areas provide rural communities with ways to benefit from conserving wildlife. A new data-focused monitoring program has been advancing that work.

Slate-colored clouds lowered over our land Cruiser as it rattled along a dirt road through Burunge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in northeast Tanzania. It was April, the height of the main rainy season, and the land around us was dense with new vegetation.

We weren’t sightseeing: Our small WWF team was doing an informational ride-along with Joseph Mpuki and Daniel Evarest, village game scouts on a routine patrol. After reaching the patrol site, we started off on foot, keeping an eye out for lions, elephants and other wildlife, as well as illegal poaching snares. Mpuki and Evarest noted any animals we saw in a daily log.

Tanzania’s WMAs are tracts of communal land set aside exclusively for wildlife management by rural villages. Participating communities receive a variety of benefits related to wildlife. Among these benefits? Jobs. In Tanzania’s 19 WMAs, more than 500 village game scouts are working to monitor species, enforce antipoaching laws and respond to human-wildlife conflicts.

A game scout shows confiscated poaching paraphernalia
Erica Rieder reviews the progress of a monitoring system

The daily logs are part of a new local monitoring system meant to help scouts and WMA managers collect and analyze data—and, in turn, empower communities to make better managment decisions. The system is being piloted in a handful of WMAs, including Burunge. Once ready, it will help WMA staff across the country safeguard their wildlife—and maximize the benefits that well-managed wildlife can bring.

Game scouts, Evarest and Mpuki, survey for wildlife in Burunge.

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