Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – The populations of several animal species in southern Tanzania are suffering alarming declines due to bushmeat hunting and habitat degradation, and urgent action is needed to prevent the collapse of local biodiversity, a new report by Tanzanian and international scientists and conservation organizations revealed today.
The report describes the results of three separate research projects focused on the threats to biodiversity in Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve in southern Tanzania since 2004. Although biodiversity is critical to the health of the ecosystem—which many Tanzanians rely on for water, soil fertility and other services—the report shows that Tanzania’s wildlife has been hugely impacted by human activities and recommends that action be taken urgently to protect it.
“Some species in this region are on the brink of extinction from one of their last remaining strongholds, especially the Udzungwa red colobus, a monkey species found only in these mountains and nowhere else in the world,” said Arafat Mtui, coordinator of the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre.
“The declining trend is so sharp that without urgent action Tanzania will lose a biodiversity treasure,” states Francesco Rovero of Italy’s Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, who led the preparation of the report.
“Similar declining trends were also detected for the small forest antelopes such as the duikers, and wildlife abundance is generally lower than in forests that are better protected,” added Trevor Jones, a biologist of the team affiliated to Anglia Ruskin University, UK.
“Human threats, especially hunting for bushmeat, but also forest degradation through selective removal of trees, are behind these declining trends,” continues Amani Kitegile, a lecturer at Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture and Ph.D. student with Anglia Ruskin University.
Martin Nielsen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed with a study on bushmeat hunting in the Udzungwa forests. “From interviews with hunters living in the villages bordering the reserve it emerged that hunting is common, representing the main extractive use and threat to the area’s unique biodiversity,” he stated.
The report highlights the need for greater attention to be paid to the impact of bushmeat hunting in Tanzania’s forest reserves. “The Udzungwas are the pearl of the Eastern Arc Mountains because they contain the largest forests and have extraordinary numbers of plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth, including two species of monkeys,” stated Rovero. “Unfortunately, while some of the forests are protected by the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, there are important forests such as Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve that have not been granted adequate protection.”
The scientists and conservation organizations associated with the report are calling for urgent action to be taken to halt bushmeat hunting in the reserve and to boost the management of the forest. Whilst recognizing the government’s efforts to upgrade the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve to become a Nature Reserve, the report highlights the need to invest more resources and effort into the forest’s protection and into community development projects and environmental awareness amongst the adjacent communities.
“Action is needed now if we are to reverse the trends of biodiversity and forest loss before it is too late. The government needs to allocate the resources that are required to manage this national treasure and to address the needs of the adjacent communities,” said Charles Meshack, Executive Director of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, Tanzania’s leading NGO in forest conservation.
The research behind the report was funded in part by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Also supporting the report are the Trento Autonomous Province through Trento Museum, Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Society of London, and Anglia Ruskin University. The launch of the report was supported by the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.
View report here
Download photos here (please provide photo credits)
For more information, contact:
Francesco Rovero: Curator of Tropical Biodiversity, Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, Italy, and Director, Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre, Tanzania
(in Tanzania until February 8th) + 255 784645453 (in Italy from February 9th) +39 3495970234
Amani Kitegile: lecturer, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, and Ph.D. student, Anglia Ruskin University
(in Tanzania) +255 754059571
Trevor Jones: research fellow and Ph.D. student, Anglia Ruskin University
(in US) +1 6097518704
Martin Nielsen: research fellow, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
(in Denmark) +45 22280847
Charles Meshack: Executive Director, Tanzania Forest Conservation Group
(in Tanzania) + 255 754380607
Notes for editors:
Uzungwa Scarp is spelled without a “d,” but the mountains are spelled with a d—Udzungwa Mountains
About the Eastern Arc Mountains
The study was conducted in the Udzungwa Mountains of Southern Tanzania. The Udzungwas are part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, an area considered by scientists to be a biodiversity hotspot, as they hold over 100 animal and 850 plant species found nowhere else in the world. Their unique biological importance is matched by their economic value to Tanzania and globally, in the form of ecosystem services such as water, hydropower potential, soil fertility in the lowlands and other natural assets for the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and men living in these areas. The forests are also an important reservoir for carbon and thus their conservation is important to efforts to combat climate change.
Most of the Eastern Arc Mountain forests are included in Catchment Forest Reserves. Over the last decade, nine of the most biologically important forests have been designated as Nature Reserves or proposed Nature Reserves. The Nature Reserve status accords the forests greater legal protection in terms of their biodiversity values. Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve is currently a ‘proposed Nature Reserve’ and a management plan is being prepared. The Eastern Arc Nature Reserves and the Udzungwa Mountains National Park are also a proposed World Heritage Site.
About the endemic primate species found in the Uzungwa Scarp Forest reserve
Udzungwa red colobus: this species of arboreal monkey is found only within the Udzungwa Mountains. It is classified as Endangered by IUCN. It feeds mainly on leaves and is particularly sensitive to forest disturbance. Only in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, covering one-fifth of the area, the species is well protected and the population is stable, while in less protected forests most populations are declining, as is dramatically happening in Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve.
Sanje mangabey: this species of monkey is found only in two separated forests in the Udzungwa Mountains, one being the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve. No more than 1,500 individuals are left in the wild. It is classified as Endangered by IUCN. It feeds mainly on fruits, and it is strictly dependent upon large areas of undisturbed forest.
About the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre
This is the field station of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, established in 2006 as a partnership between Tanzania National Parks and Italy’s Trento Museum of Natural Sciences. It aims to support and facilitate biological monitoring and capacity building in the area, and is involved in monitoring the primates and forest conditions in Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve. For more information, visit: www.udzungwacentre.org
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. For more information about CEPF, please visit www.cepf.net