WHEN the Arusha Declaration came aboard in 1965 it stipulated that: “The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa. These wild creatures in wild places are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration.
“They are also an integral part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and wellbeing. We solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy this rich precious inheritance.
“The conservation of wildlife calls for specialist knowledge, trained manpower, and money. We look to other nations to cooperate with us in this important task – the success or failure of which not only affects Africa but the rest of the world as well.” National parks cover about five per cent of Tanzanian land and to this should be added 30 game reserves, 48 game controlled areas and 535 forest reserves.
This makes the total area devoted to conservation to cover nearly 25 per cent of the whole country. Reinforcing what Mwalimu Julius Nyerere said in 1961, the Tanzanian reality is that the nation is economically one of the poorest in the world while, at the same time, it is one of the richest in terms of biodiversity.
Per head, Tanzania invests eight times more of its own resources in its wildlife conservation programmes than do rich countries such as the US and Switzerland. Arusha National Park is one of the 16 richest wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania.
Much of this 137 square kilometres park combines an audible, forest experience with a visual one. Maasai giraffes and buffaloes are common and there are more than 100 elephants in the park. Arusha National Park is home to huge numbers of giraffes, buffalos, leopards, elephants and smaller game such as the red duikers, bushbucks, dik diks, warthogs, black-and-white colobus monkeys and squirrels, just to mention a few.
The wildlife sanctuary is also inhabited by more than 550 species of birds and many colourful butterflies and other species of insects. The area also has numerous species of vegetation. Unfortunately, human settlements are expanding in the vicinity of the park.
Tanzania national parks conservation policies were first enunciated in September 1961 in the run-up to Independence at a symposium on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Arusha by Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. At Independence in 1961, Tanganyika (as the country was then known before the union with Zanzibar in 1964) had only one national park, the international acclaimed Serengeti. Today the number of national parks in Tanzania has increased to 16.
These are Arusha National Park; Gombe National Park; Katavi National Park; Kilimanjaro National Park; Kitulo National Park; Mahale National Park; Manyara National Park; Mikumi National Park; Mkomazi National Park; Ruaha National Park and Rubondo National Park. Others are Saadani National Park; Saanane National Park; Serengeti National Park; Tarangire National Park and Udzungwa National Park.
Collectively the parks are inhabited by 20 per cent of Africa’s large mammal population. Tanzania has, over the past 20 years, emerged from comparative obscurity to stand as one of Africa’s most dynamic and popular travel destinations, says Mr Gerald Bigurube, the Director General of Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa).
Zebra are confined to the open grassland of Serengeti Ndogo (lesser Serengeti) near the entrance, unable to migrate because of human settlement, while hippopotamus are found around Momella lakes. The screams and laughter of spotted hyenas join the nocturnal symphony while diurnal warthog can be found in much of the park.
The smaller game includes bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Defassa duiker, klipspringer and suni (that are Africa’s smallest antelopes). Also in the park are several species of squirrel and banded mongoose. Apart from blackand- white colobus monkeys, there are also Sykes and vervet monkeys and olive baboons. Beyond this, 575 species of birds have been sighted in the park.
And there are innumerable aesthetically enchanting butterflies, in contrasting trees, flowers and scenery in differing habitats. Because of the near total absence of lions, Arusha National Park pioneered the increasingly popular walking safaris. But dangerous animals such as elephants and buffalos exist in the park. Even transitory lions have been seen twice in the past ten years while secretive leopards are ever present.
This is why visitors on walking safaris must be accompanied by armed guards. In this area visitors are likely to see troops of up to 100 olive baboons. They include mothers with young, easily recognizable adult males and adolescent males awaiting their transfer to another troop. Baboon diet consists of fruit, grass, insects and roots. In bizarre circumstances they may kill small antelopes.
Another primate visitors will hear more often, and will usually only see high in the trees, are black-andwhite colobus monkeys. These monkeys are extremely handsome. They are distinguished by long flowing hair that forms a white mantle around the body and their bushy white tails. The young are initially all white, changing colour after three months. Colobus monkey calls are a guttural roar rapidly repeated in chorus.
They are the most arboreal of all African monkeys, rarely descending from trees to the ground. The monkeys live in family troops of one adult male with several females. Young males leave the group to form new troops or become solitary.
The forest habitat of black-and-white colobus monkeys living outside the park is threatened by deforestation. This in turn threatens the animals’ feeding grounds. Ngurdoto Crater is an attractive spot for visitors.
The best viewing point is Leitong at 1,853 metres (6,115 feet). This is the highest spot on the crater rim. Leitong provides excellent views of the countryside and Momella Lakes in the distance. The agricultural settlements bordering the park are a stark reminder of just how vulnerable protected areas are to increasing human numbers.