The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has urged Tanzania to halt the on-going mass logging in the Selous Game Reserve (a Unesco World Heritage Site) and the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project, along the Rufiji River.

Peter Shadie, IUCN Senior Adviser on World Heritage said the deforestation of such a large area in the core of the reserve, which provides critical habitat for iconic African species, will clearly put the Selous Game Reserve’s ecosystem and wildlife in great danger. “This is one of the planet’s most biodiversity-rich areas and wise decisions are needed to ensure its protection for future generations.”

The $3bn logging project has led to the closure of some of the properties in the Selous, among them, the luxurious Azura Selous game lodge on the banks of the Great Ruaha River.

Azura management previously urged the government to halt the plans but failed as logger entered the site ‘prematurely’. “We have obviously raised this issue with the Selous Game Reserve Management, and anyone else in authority that we can approach, as this clearing of trees is totally premature,” Azura said in a statement. “In the studies we have seen, it is envisaged the proposed dam will take more than three years to build – from when funding has been obtained which it has not as yet – and another several years to flood the area, so there is no need to disturb us in this way now. However, our complaints have sadly had no impact. The logging has commenced and the government has advised us to move our camp.”

Azura has however, declined to comment on the issue following IUCN’s latest advice to government of Tanzania.