The development of a safe passage for migratory mammals in an area of Tanzania experiencing a rapid population increase has been buoyed after Land Management Plans (LMPs) for 4 key villages were accepted by the Ministry of Housing and Development in Dar es Salaam.
These plans are part of a four year Darwin Initiative fund, led by Frontier-Tanzania, to conserve the Ruipa Corridor, a large mammal migratory route that connects the Selous Game Reserve and Udzungwa Mountains National Park. The area is home to populations of elephant, sable and zebra, amongst many other mammal species. Increased human population in the region; attributed to high birth rates and increased migration, has led to diminishing wildlife numbers and greater insistences of human-wildlife conflict. This has led to a severe decrease in the numbers of large mammals in the area that appear to be using the route, leading to the speculation that wild populations of the animals have decreased in absolute terms.
The LMPs have incorporated plans for areas of the villages, all within the Ulanga district, to be left as pristine forest between zones of human land use. These act as wildlife corridors to allow for mammals attempting to pass through the villages to have a safer route away from villagers’ farmland and housing, reducing the chances of a potentially dangerous interaction with humans. Also included in the plans is the establishment of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) which impose strict limits on hunting and the use of resources, again helping to ensure that mammal populations, and indeed all organisms within the forest, will enjoy greater protection from habitat loss.
Frontier-Tanzania, working alongside both the district council in and local villagers, aided in the creation of the LMPs by providing equipment, such as GPS’s, and technical knowledge to map the current zones of different land uses in the villages. Based on these maps, village council meetings were held where the villagers and the local council would decide on the expansion potential of these zones and, in some cases, where to move settlements, in order to create these areas of pristine forest. Importantly, these decisions were made by the villagers themselves, improving local knowledge of the plans and ensuring they are implemented and maintained.
These Land Management Plans are but one stage in the mission to conserve the Ruipa Corridor; the continuation of community awareness of the importance of large mammal populations is crucial. Happily, the success of these plans and the infectious enthusiasm of the local people have suggested that the future of large mammal populations in the region is brighter.