The rhino and elephant populations of Tanzania have seen a significant bump in growth as the government continues to crack down on widespread poaching.
The African country’s director of presidential communications said in a statement last week that the number of rhinos in Tanzania has jumped from just 15 in 2014 to 167, while the elephant population has grown by nearly 20,000.
The statement credited the boost to President John Magufuli’s efforts in protecting natural resources such as wildlife reserves, as well as a more concerted effort in the fight against poaching.
Reuters reports that the country has set aside 32 percent of its total land area for conservation activities, and also saw a win in February, when it sentenced a Chinese businesswoman dubbed the “Ivory Queen” to 15 years in prison for poaching. She had reportedly smuggled the tusks of more than 350 elephants to Asia.
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Despite the government’s statistics regarding the animal populations, Mark Jones, head of policy at the wildlife charity Born Free Foundation, told The Independent he was skeptical, as rhinos and elephants breed too slowly for the numbers to be attributed solely to a crackdown on poaching.
“This sounds like very good news but we should view these figures with caution until there’s independent verification,” he said. “There’s no way that has occurred through breeding and protection alone … If there’s been a clampdown on poaching in Tanzania, it may be that some have moved in.”
Meanwhile, the numbers also do not align with a report from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which listed 133 black rhinos in Tanzania in 2015.
The same report said that 11 rhinos had been poached to death between 2006-2015 in the country.
According to the organization Wild Aid, in the past 40 years, the world has lost 95 percent of its rhinos with poachers killing more than 1,000 rhinos each year in South Africa alone.