Tanzania: Benson Kibonde, Selous Game Reserve Manager in Tanzania

Tanzania: Benson Kibonde, Selous Game Reserve Manager in Tanzania

Benson Kibonde has dedicated his entire life to protecting nature and the environment, in particular at the Selous Game Reserve and to combat poaching. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ assisted an elephant count in 2013 whose scientifically validated figures revealed the true scale of recent poaching activities. In response to these findings, a pragmatic Benson Kibonde successfully instigated a turnaround in protected area management – one that has curbed illegal ivory poaching in Selous.

What does your work mean for you?

I think everyone has an affinity with nature – I know I do. I love nature and wild animals. We are reliant on their survival so it’s imperative we protect them, as our forefathers did before us. We have to take on this responsibility and make sure that wild animals, and our elephants in particular, are still around for generations to come.

What measures have you taken to ensure the protection of the Selous Game Reserve?

My main task involves making sure the wild animals have appropriate protection. This includes supervising all activities that go on in the Selous Game Reserve – including photography and hunting tourism. And then there’s the illegal hunting of wild animals which we are now combatting successfully. We reckon there still are around 70 groups of poachers operating in Selous. To deter them, we have substantially increased our team of rangers. Furthermore, we are working to build roads and aim to provide social welfare benefits to our staff members.

What message would you like to give to the younger generation?

I would to try to convince young people that the world cannot exist without wild animals. Someone has to protect them. You can’t value life in terms of wealth, but in terms of what we as humans do to conserve our natural resources and wildlife.

What kind of compromises have you had to make in your career?

My private life has certainly been restricted by my passion for the animal world. On occasions, my work has prevented me from spending more time with my family. But wild animals don’t have anyone who can speak for them. That’s why we have to work hard and try to ensure they are protected. During my entire professional career, I can only think of three days when I was unable to come to work because I was ill.

Looking back, is there anything you would change in your life?

No. I think I’ve done what I could. I’ve dedicated my entire life to wild animals. My concern has always been to assure their survival. Money has never played a role in it for me. You've only got to look at the way I live to see that.

With an area of 55,000 square km, Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa and the second largest on earth – which makes flying the prime means of getting around.

Besides lions, the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Centre Selous has elephant, hippopotamus, leopard and buffalo as well as some rhinoceros.

Working on behalf of the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Benson Kibonde oversees the protection of Selous’ wildlife.

To successfully combat poaching in Selous, the rangers have to be adequately equipped, trained and motivated.

The aim is to conserve one of the largest elephant populations in East Africa. In Selous, elephants are free to roam wherever they want to.

An elephant count (2013) revealed that, over the past ten years, more than 60 per cent of Selous’ elephants have fallen prey to poachers.

Poaching is a growing threat to the continued existence of elephants and rhinoceros in the game reserve – and thus to the livelihoods of many local people.

Benson Kibonde gets regular status reports from his rangers about the current situation in Selous.

Benson Kibonde and his team also want to construct more housing for rangers.

Benson Kibonde favours using the money Selous earns through photo tourism and controlled big game hunting to reinvest in nature conservation.