For more than a decade and a half, Benezeth Mutayoba, a professor at Sokoine University of Agriculture’s Department of Veterinary Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, and Toxicology, has engaged in challenging conservation research, especially on elephants and the bushmeat trade, and has mentored students to take action to protect their unique natural heritage.
Among his many conservation accomplishments was to develop, with colleagues, mitochondrial DNA testing methods to identify bushmeat sold illegally as domestic beef and pork to hotels in Tanzania and other East African countries. His technique is now used by scientists in other parts of Africa. He also served as a member of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force aimed at identifying and supporting solutions that effectively respond to the bushmeat crisis around the world.
In addition, Mutayoba collaborated on research examining the long-term impacts of poaching of female elephants in Mikumi National Park in southern Tanzania. The research found that survivors who had lost kin displayed altered behavior, heightened stress levels, and lower fertility. These long-term impacts also prevail in elephants that survived past heavy poaching in Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania. Mutayoba presents these finding at various venues to communicate that poaching has long-lasting effects on elephant populations.
He also has been instrumental in several genetic studies to develop DNA tools for determining the origin of seized ivory, and, as vice chairman of the Tanzania Elephant Protection Society, he has challenged the Tanzanian government’s denial of the elephant poaching crisis and has raised awareness of its scope and impact. As a result, at the end of 2013, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete launched “Operation Tokomeza” to end elephant poaching in Tanzania and ordered aerial counts of all the major elephant populations in southern Tanzanian reserves and national parks.
Additionally, Mutayoba is deeply involved in researching and documenting wildlife connectivity and the movement of large animals outside the protected areas in Tanzania.
Learn more to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field. Awardees have demonstrated outstanding leadership in managing and protecting the natural resources in his or her country and region. They are each inspirational conservation advocates, who serve as role models and mentors.
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