Nature in Mahale Mountains NP
Actual Management team
- Chief Park Warden: Mr. D. R. Njau
- Head Resource Protection Department: Mr. Lowassari
- Head Tourism Services Department: Mr. J. Manase
- Head Ecological Monitoring Department: Mr. A. Mtui
- Head Outreach Department: Mr. E. Kimario
- Head Accounts & Administration Department: Mr. L. Nnko
National Parks' Management
Contrary to a widespread belief among first-time visitors, Tanzanian National Parks are not vast expanses left to their own devices without human intervention. They are not gardens of Eden over which time has no hold, spared of all human presence and burden.
While enjoying the extraordinary beauty of Tanzania’s National Parks, it is worth remembering that they are human institutions run by highly motivated people dedicated to their preservation. The areas within these Parks are deeply integrated in local and national cultures and economies:
- The landscapes and ecosystems of National Parks are the result of a long coexistence of nature and human activities (farming, tree growing, cattle raising, mineral extraction, building activities, etc.).
- National parks are included in local and regional economies. It is a central goal of the management of each park to let the neighbouring villages benefit from the positive effects of National Parks in order to increase their acceptance and compensate for the loss of access to valuable natural resources.
- National Parks are an important source of revenue for the entire country. One of TANAPA’s goals is thus to find mechanisms allowing a fair sharing of profit between Tanzanians and foreign investors.
- Each National Park is staffed by a team of motivated professionals who manage it and make strategic choices about its development. Below is an overview of their daily work, which shows that there is always much maintenance work behind what seems to be unmanaged nature.
TANAPA is a public institution under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, established in 1959, empowered by an Act of Parliament to manage and regulate the use of areas designated as National Parks, in order to preserve the country’s heritage, encompassing cultural and natural resources. Included in this goal is the provision for human benefit and enjoyment of these resources, in ways that will leave them unimpaired for future generations.
Key responsibilities of the Park Warden In Charge:
- Planning strategies for ensuring that natural and Park resources are well secured
- Supervising Park staff
- Overall management of the Park, ensuring smooth operation of TANAPA policies and objectives
- Annual budgets and plans for the Park
- Providing a link between the Park and TANAPA’s headquarters in Arusha
- Spokesman of TANAPA in the Park
Key responsibilities of the Resource Protection Officer:
- Protection of resources
- Aerial and under-cover surveillance within the Park and nearby villages
- Ensuring that Park Rangers are well disciplined and fully equipped with appropriate field gear and arms
- Ensuring that arms and ammunitions are ordered in time and are managed properly
- Combating banditry and poaching and ensuring that cases are prosecuted
Key responsibilities of the Park Ecologist:
- Ecological monitoring in the Park (monitoring habitats and maintaining biodiversity inventory)
- Environmental impact assessments of any developments in the Park
- Fire management
- Pollution control and monitoring
- Supervising research work in the Park
- Reports and databases on ecological findings in the Park
Key responsibilities of the Tourism Promotions Officer:
- Tourist promotion, disseminating information materials and overseeing tourist activities
- Information about park regulations, tariffs and fees
- Visitor Services Centres
- Collaboration with stakeholders in the tourism industry to share visitors' experiences in terms of needs and wants, in order to continuously improve the handling of visitors
- Code of conduct for Park guides and rangers as well as operators; and monitor compliance
- Exploit all income-generating opportunities
Key responsibilities of the Outreach Programme Officer:
- Establishment of community-level environmental education programs (incl. distribution of education material such as calendars, leaflets, brochures and newsletters)
- Supporting the Park’s neighbourhood communities’ initiatives in project development and establishment of social services
- Collaborating with NGOs and CBOs in conservation education
- Promoting establishment of school clubs
- Participating in communities’ land-use planning
Key responsibilities of the Accounts and Administration Officer:
- Administrative/personnel policies, rules and regulations
- Administering all operational regulations and standing orders as well as government and TANAPA’s financial orders
- Proper management in all Parks
- Maintaining office facilities and ensuring Park’s estates are well kept
- Providing all administration/staff facilities
Threats and challenges
The most pressing conservation concern in the Mahale ecosystem is the issue of loss of connectivity, that is, the loss of habitat corridors linking the National Park to other undisturbed areas of habitat, particularly forest patches. This is a large-scale issue that can only be tackled with District and National level support and a major effort at developing a land-use plan for the whole area. This must include both Mpanda and Kigoma Districts and have high-level political support. The stakes are high and the time is short. Connectivity to the east between the Wansisi Hills and Mahale is important for elephant movements as is the connection via Kakungu / Lubalisi to Ntakata and the Sitebe-Sifuta mountains and from there up to the Kasakati and Filabanga, Uvinza Forest Reserve and Ugalla Game Reserve. Without habitat corridors, animals such as elephants and chimps will either become fragmented into small populations isolated in forest ‘islands’, or they will be forced to migrate across cultivated land, which would lead to a large increase in human-wildlife conflict.
The second direct threat to Mahale is uncontrolled fire. Wildfires are set outside the Park by hunters and farmers in the dry season, and frequently burn out of control, causing a major amount of damage to undisturbed habitats both within and outside the National Park. In general, mature miombo woodland is not badly affected by these, but most types of evergreen forest are not fire resistant. As a result, the total area covered by evergreen forest in west Tanzania is being continuously reduced and the edges of most forest patches have become very sharp. Forest is not able to regenerate in the short-term in areas that have been burnt or cultivated, so the protection of this habitat type from uncontrolled burning is a very high priority. A 5 m wide “fire-break” is cut along the Park boundary at the beginning of each dry season, to help reduce the number of fires crossing the border from farm land. Ongoing efforts are being made by Park staff to sensitise members of neighbouring communities towards the importance of fire control.
Thirdly, there is the problem of introduced species that have become invasive in the Kasoge area of Mahale. Efforts to eradicate Senna, Senna spectabilis, have been ongoing for several years, and although there is a need for these to become more organized and systematic, some success is being realized. There is now a concern that the focus on Senna has caused other invasive exotic species to be ignored. After Senna, the biggest threat comes from Guava, Psidium guajava. This South American species can become a huge problem in forest habitats like Kasoge. The fruits are very attractive to many species and the hard seeds pass easily through their guts and are dispersed widely. The Mahale Ecology Department is conducting ongoing monitoring of the spread of all exotic plants in the Park.
- TANAPA’s Schemes of Services, 2002
- David C. Moyer (2006). Biodiversity of Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Unpublished report, Wildlife Conservation Society Tanzania Program
- Tanzania National Parks