Consumptive Tourism:

General Impacts and Experiences of Maasai and Other Local Communities

OBC in Loliondo is only one example of the tense relationship between indigenous communities and consumptive tourism companies in Tanzania. As stated in the previous sections of this report, the consumptive tourism industry is the main form of wildlife utilization promoted by the Tanzanian government, demonstrated by the increase in hunting concessions from approximately 47 in 1989 to 140 in 1997. Most hunting blocks are within communal lands adjacent to protected areas–a strategy that targets migratory patterns of wild animals to maximize utilization. Some of the major hunting concessions are located next to Serengeti, Taangire, Lake Manyara, Mkomazi, Arusha, Selous, and Maswa protected areas. As expected, the number of hunting expeditions to Tanzania has continued to grow at a staggering rate over the last 10 years, and today, 85 percent of game-controlled areas and communal lands are designated for hunting, while the remaining 15 percent are open to ecotourism operations.

Host communities are rarely, if ever, consulted in any meaningful manner and, even more rarely given real decision-making powers regarding if and how hunting safari companies are to use their land. Agreements are between the company and the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in the central government. The entire process is top-down; hunters have little obligation to local communities.

The central government claims to give 25 percent of its annual intake from tourist hunting operations to the local communities. It is common knowledge that the people on the ground, those who are the real custodians of the land, rarely see the fruits of this 25 percent. District councils use the money for their own plans. Some of it undoubtedly ends up in the wrong pockets. The "benefits" for affected communities are far outweighed by the costs–hunting within miles of their homes, stray bullets that on occasion kill livestock, decimation of wildlife, threats to cultural survival, land appropriation, curtailment of grazing rights, and, in the case of OBC, severe harassment of the population.

Furthermore, overall operations of the hunting industry have continued to cause concern over the misuse and overexploitation of the country and region’s wildlife. Many people and NGOs interviewed by MERC pointed out at the lack of transparency and widespread corruption in the process of awarding licenses, allocation of hunting blocks, and, enforcement of hunting regulations. This assertion is corroborated by the Tanzanian Department of Wildlife, which in its 1994 Planning and Assessment for Wildlife Management pointed out that, "lack of transparent methods for allocation of hunting concessions, corruption, and the government’s inability to justify large areas devoted to hunting areas" are among the key problems bedeviling the hunting industry in the country.

In the Tarangire National Park area, for instance, a company associated with a former powerful politician has been accused by local communities of capturing leopards and lions for trophies and live export over the last several years. The Department of Wildlife, which favors commercial hunting, has been at loggerheads for some time with the local community for entering into a contract with an ecotourism operation to conduct tours in the area. The government fears that the community’s joint venture with the ecotourism operator will undermine hunting activities. As in Loliondo, some local leaders were either threatened or paid off to stop opposing hunting operations in Tarangire. The tour company itself has been threatened with the revocation of its business licenses if it persists in conducting ecotourism activities in areas designated for hunting. The company is facing a similar problem in Isinya, near Mkomazi wildlife preserve, where it also has an agreement with the local Maasai people.

The situation in Tarangire illustrates yet again the sources of conflicts that pit local communities and ecotourism operators on the one hand against the government and the hunting industry on the other. Conflicts of this nature have been reported in many parts of Maasailand including Isinya, Oloonkiito (Longido), Lake Manyara, and Kilimanjaro areas. In all these areas, hunting companies, as well as their hunter-clients, are accused of indiscriminate hunting of wildlife, insensitivity to the rights of the local people and to the overall well-being of the environment.

Allegations of widespread corruption in the field–for example, bribing wildlife rangers to condone violations of legal off-take quotas, allow hunting in the designated locations, and permit the use of proscribed hunting methods–are commonplace. As outlined in the earlier sections of this report, OBC has been accused of conducting hunting activities as far as 15 kilometers inside Serengeti National Park with impunity. This violation of the law is common practice throughout the hunting industry. For instance, local communities in Tarangire and Mkomazi areas told MERC that hunting expeditions often venture deep into the parks in search of wildlife that is increasingly becoming scarce in the designated hunting concessions because of depletion.

The misconduct of the hunting industry in Tanzania even ignores territorial sovereignty. Kenya wildlife officials have expressed concerns over the violation of international boundaries in pursuit of wildlife by Tanzania-based hunting companies. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) cites two dramatic incidents to demonstrate the threats of hunting operations to wildlife not only in Tanzania but the region as a whole. The first incident occurred in 1995. Four bull elephants, subjects of a 20-year study in Amboseli National Park by world-renowned scientist Cynthia Moss, were killed on the Kenya-Tanzania border by a hunting expedition of a Tanzania-based operation. This incident caused outrage among the global environmental and wildlife conservation community. Kenya wilfdlife officials, the Amboseli Elephant Research project, and local Maasai say that the hunting company knew of the Amboseli elephant study but nevertheless chose to kill the elephants for their large tusks. The controversy has since ended, but the company continues to exploit transnational migratory routes of the region’s wildlife.

The second incident, which MERC associates witnessed, occurred on August 7, 2001 around 2:00 p.m. in Olgulului Group Ranch adjacent to Amboseli National Park. On that date, a hunting expedition of a South African-owned Tanzania-based company, Northern Tanzania Hunting Safaris, crossed into Kenya and killed four wildebeest before local Maasai spotted them and alerted the Amboseli authorities, who happened to be in the area on patrol. Following a short pursuit, the hunters (a South African, an American, and three Tanzanians) were arrested and taken to the cross-border town of Namanga where they were charged with illegally entering and hunting in Kenya. Local people in the area told MERC that they believed the hunters were on "their usual search for lions" because there were few, if any lions left across the border in Tanzania. MERC was told that Northern Tanzania Hunting Safaris regularly conduct hunting activities in Kenya where wildlife comes for refuge.

Corruption is not limited to field officers, but also occurs at the bureaucratic level. Hunting permits, which indicate the maximum number of animals the permit-holder can kill, often go unaudited. Several employees of local hunting and photographic safaris in Arusha told MERC that depending on the amount of money involved, blank permits are often issued to hunting companies. The issuance of blank licenses has been decried by locals and conservationists alike as a "dangerous practice" that undermines the future of the country’s wildlife.

An employee of an outfitter based in Arusha said that field rangers sometime demand as much as US$300 to go along with the demands of the hunting company. For their part, hunting companies feel obligated to ensure their clients get quality trophies in order to build their name and reputation and to ward off competition from other practitioners. "The last thing an outfitter wants to hear is complaints from an unsatisfied client who feels that he or she paid too much money to come on a ‘big-five’ hunting expedition only to be told to hunt an impala or hyena: this would mean a bad name for the company and immediate loss of business," said the employee. "The majority of hunters want to be guaranteed a good hunt before they go on an expedition and it is the individual company’s responsibility to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens," he continued. When MERC asked him what he exactly meant by "doing whatever it takes," he pointed out that bribes remain the most effective tool to ensure the company’s clients are happy and that business continues to prosper.

You know, at the end of the day, they will eliminate these animals and then go back to their wealthy homelands and leave us more impoverished than when we had our animals

Lemido Saunae, a Tarangire resident.

The Tanzanian government is aware of the general nature of the conflict between indigenous communities and consumptive tourism companies. To address the lack of community ownership and input in the tourism industry, and to direct economic benefits to host communities, the government has introduced the concept of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). The Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources introduced WMAs in its 1998 Wildlife Policy. WMAs are defined as "an area declared by the Minister to be so and set aside by village government for the purpose of biological natural resource conservation." The idea behind WMAs is to ensure that communities are direct stakeholders and benefactors in the conservation and management of wildlife found on their lands.

A number of pilot projects involving non-consumptive tourism have been established. Because the Wildlife Policy has not yet become legislation, the legality of contracts between these tourism companies and villages has come into question, polarizing debate among the hunting industry, ecotourism companies, district governments, the central government, and local communities. Moreover, a great deal of skepticism prevails on the part of numerous Maasai community members and NGOs regarding the sincerity of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in the implementation of the WMA guidelines. Official adoption of the draft WMA guidelines as law has been slow in coming. Many believe this is due to the central government’s reluctance to devolve power to local governments and communities, which would result in the central government losing the direct revenue it now reaps from contracts with hunting companies. Moreover, under WMAs, hunting companies would at least be partially under the authority of the local community.

Conflicts involving wildlife utilization go deeper still. A fundamental problem is that property legislation is at odds with conservation law. According to various pieces of legislation, villages may own land, but the government owns all wildlife resources. In reality, of course, it is impossible to separate the two. Legally incorporating the concept of WMAs into an already conflicting legislative framework complicates matters further. The government does have experts attempting to harmonize the various laws. Resolution of these legislative quandaries could potentially go a long way in ensuring that impoverished communities do indeed benefit from their own resources. But such hopeful thinking is premised on respect for the law by all stakeholders and its effective enforcement, a risky assumption, as anecdotally demonstrated by the following quotes MERC collected from foreign hunters in Tanzania.

There is so much wildlife, and one can even hunt inside the park.

Gutterman, a trophy hunter from Germany, interviewed in Arusha. When MERC asked if he was aware of the consequences for hunting inside the park, he said:

There are none because most of the time we let the money do the talking and before too long, you find the park rangers are now the guides for the hunting expedition both inside and outside the park. They also stop paying attention to the species and hunting quotas restrictions.

Here in Tanzania, we can kill what we want because money speaks. I know how the system works here.

Mortensen, a trophy hunter from Denmark, interviewed in Arusha.

I will have to bring my friend Randy to Tanzania next time. He would enjoy shooting without having to worry about the hunting limits.

Troy, a trophy-hunter from Montana, USA, interviewed in Arusha.

Like OBC in Loliondo, many hunting Safari outfitters clearly operate above the law, and for companies’ personnel, laws are irrelevant in practice. Again, while OBC is an extreme example of severe disregard for the environment, human rights, and legal process, it is by no means an isolated case. Of the many NGOs, park officials, and others MERC interviewed, few expressed confidence in enforcement of government regulations or in hunters’ adherence to government quotas. MERC repeatedly heard that game scouts required to accompany hunting safaris can be bought off. Thus, the number of animals killed and captured is most likely under-reported, resulting in a quota system based on inaccurate data. It is quite possible, then, that the populations of some species in Tanzania are far smaller than reflected on paper.