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.
Our small WWF team was doing a 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, most of all employment. In Tanzania’s 19 WMAs, more than 500 village game scouts are working to monitor species, enforcing anti-poaching laws and responding to human-wildlife conflicts.
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 management 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.