When we hear of wildlife migratory routes the thought that comes immediately to mind is of wildebeest moving in their thousands across river Mara from the Serengeti plains to the Masai Mara.
What most do not realise is that their farmlands or even their settlements could be lying within a wildlife corridor connecting two or more wildlife areas far apart.
And the fact that wild animals have not passed through a corridor for some time does not mean they have abandoned or forgotten the route altogether.
One day they might show up only to find farmlands and settlements blocking their paths, leading to deadly confrontations with humans.
Dr Elikana Kalumanga, Private Sector Engagement Manager of USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili, says wildlife corridors enable wild animal movements in search of basic requirements such as water, food, space and new habitats from one wildlife area to another.
These corridors can also help animals find an escape route during floods, drought and wildfires in their original habitat, Dr Kalumanga adds.
And because most of the wildlife corridors are usually in fertile lowlands, with natural water sources and persistent greenery they have also attracted human settlements and activities as the population increases.
“As such wildlife corridors are in great danger of disappearing completely, putting the survival of wild animals moving along them in total danger,” Dr Kalumanga notes.
It is for that reason that USAID Tanzania has come up with the Tuhifadhi Maliasili Project which focuses on the conservation of wildlife corridors both over lands and in marine habitats in Tanzania.
According to John Noronha, M&E Manager of Tuhifadhi Maliasili, the project, which started in June 2021, aims at building institutional capacity for private and public sector players to enable them to identify and conserve the corridors.
Because many of these wildlife migratory routes are not covered by any legal mechanisms and are usually ignored in many development undertakings, the project seeks to improve the policy and regulatory aspects in order to create an enabling environment for biodiversity conservation and natural resource management in the corridors, Mr Norohna notes.
“We also facilitate full implementation of the existing laws, amendment of the unfavourable laws, and the crafting of new laws to complement conservation efforts,” Mr Norohna says.
The Journalists’ Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) on January 12 and 13, 2023, convened a training workshop for reporters from various media houses in Bagamoyo on the need and the importance of conserving wildlife corridors.
The JET-facilitated training, to be followed by field visits, is part of the implementation of the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili Project aimed at raising mass awareness of conservation efforts.
JET is working with journalists from various media houses to sensitise stakeholders on the importance of conserving wildlife corridors for the well-being of human beings and the survival of wild animals.
Estimates show that there are about 61 wildlife corridors and migratory routes in Tanzania. They range from one kilometre – wide to 100 kilometres or more.
Mr Norohna says the USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili (translated as ‘Preserve Natural Resources’) Project covers seven wildlife corridors namely, Kwakuchinja-Tarangire-Manyara; Ruaha-Rungwa-Katavi; Mahale Mountains- Katavi; Kigosi Moyowosi – Burigi Chato in Biharamulo and Kakonko Districts; Nyerere/Selous – Udzungwa in Morogoro Region; and Amani-Nilo Forest in Muheza.
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And in addition to conserving wildlife corridors and migratory routes there is also a need to conserve wildlife dispersal areas and buffer zones, according to Dr Kalumanga.
Dispersal areas are used by wild animals for feeding, laying and storing of eggs, breeding, rearing and feeding of the young animals while buffer zones are areas that surround conservation areas such as national parks, game reserves and game-controlled areas.
“These wildlife corridors have socio-economic advantages for human beings and their conservation would increase these advantages in terms of tourism, agriculture and water sources,” Mr Norohna noted.
“But they have also ecological benefits as they enable wildlife to maintain wildlife richness and diversity, allow re-establishment following local extinction, as well as enhancing genetic variation,” he added.
Damas Kanyabwoya is a Dar es Salaam-based freelance journalist. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.