Fortress Conservation: Tension in Tanzania’s Loliondo as troops move in to evict Maasai to make way for game reserve

The game reserve, once it materialises, will reportedly be used by the UAE royal family  

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Friday 10 June 2022

There is tension in Tanzania’s Loliondo division since June 8, 2022, when dozens of police personnel arrived to reportedly evict Maasai tribespeople in the area in order to make way for a game reserve for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal family, Survival International and the Oakland Institute have alleged.

Both organisations shared videos on social media from the area June 9, including the villages of Ololosokwan and Kirtalo. These purportedly showed smoke rising as gunfire resounded in the background and protesting Maasai ran for cover.

Both organisations also shared graphic photographs showing gunshot wounds sustained by Maasai in the area. Down To Earth cannot vouch for the veracity of the material.


Survival International is an organisation that works for the rights of tribal and uncontacted peoples across the world. The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, “bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.”

Oakland Institute, in a statement June 9, said dozens of police vehicles from the anti-riot Field Force Unit (FFU) arrived in Wasso town of the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district to demarcate a 1,500 square kilometre area of land as a game reserve.

The FFU and other forces have set up camp in the Oloosek area of Ololosokwan and in Sanjan sub-village of Malambo, the statement added.

“The arrival of a heavy police force signals the government has moved forward with plans to change the status of the Loliondo Game Controlled Area into a Game Reserve, which would trigger mass evictions of Maasai living in legally registered villages within the area,” it read.

Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism had announced plans earlier this month to change the status of several Game Controlled Areas to Game Reserves.

This would mean that Loliondo, Lake Natron, Lokisale, Longido, Mto wa mbu and Kilombero would no longer allow permanent residents and livestock grazing would be banned.

The country’s natural resources and tourism minister arrived in the Arusha region to “inspect the activities of the Loliondo Game Reserve”, signalling that the decision to change the area’s status had been made.

According to Oakland, the UAE-based Otterlo Business Company — which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests — will reportedly control commercial hunting in the area despite the company’s past involvement in several violent evictions of the Maasai, burning of homes and the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area.

Gunshot wound sustained by a protestor. Photo: Survival International

A ban on settlement and livestock grazing as well as eviction of the residents would be in contravention of the 2018 injunction by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).

This prohibits the Tanzanian government from evicting villagers, seizing their livestock, destroying property, or engaging in harassment against Maasai communities living in Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arash villages.

“While a final ruling from the EACJ is expected at the end of June, the government is willing to defy the court injunction, grab the ancestral land of the Maasai and hand it over to the royal family of the UAE for their hunting pleasures, indicating its ruthless disregard for its citizens, international law, and due process,” Anuradha Mittal, Oakland’s executive director was quoted as saying in the statement.

Fiore Longo, the head of Survival’s conservation campaign, told DTE:

We are in front of a humanitarian catastrophe that reveals the true face of conservation. The Maasai are being shot just because they want to live in their ancestral lands in peace and all of this to make room for trophy hunting and “conservation”.

She said many Maasai facing violence today were also evicted from the world-famous Serengeti National Park in 1959 by British colonialists.

“What happens today is in continuity with this colonial past. This violence that we see in Tanzania is the reality of conservation in Africa and Asia: Daily violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples and local communities so that the ‘rich’ can hunt and do safaris in peace,” she added.

Kenya-based Mordecai Ogada, author of the book The Big Conservation Lie, was also scathing in his criticism.

“This eviction is an example of the way safari tourism is practiced in Africa and is turning wildlife into a curse for local people. Safari tourism remains the only basis on which African governments will evict, displace or kill their indigenous citizens at the behest of foreigners. Safari tourism as currently practiced in Africa is a dangerous neurosis,” he told DTE from Kenya.

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