In early January, when driving through Mikumi National Park along the Dar to Mbeya Highway, we saw two elephant cow-calf groups crossing the road mid-morning. Traffic was busy as usual and we had to wave at the lorry behind us to slow down and stop instead of pass us when we saw that the elephants were wanting to cross. We also noticed that the park has put up signs that say “no animal viewing” which means that people can no longer stop along the road to look at animals without risking a fine. While this may be good for the park (in terms of tourist dollars) and will hopefully encourage people to visit Mikumi rather than just drive through it, it also means that people aren’t slowing down when they DO see animals. And the speed bumps are in need of repair.
In recent months, there have been reports of increased poaching in Mikumi. There have also been sightings of large elephant herds with animals crowded close together – an indication of poaching pressure. Researchers at Mikumi’s Animal Behaviour Research Unit (ABRU) report almost daily problems with poachers which at times, keep them from going into the field. The Mikumi highway certainly makes the park more accessible and Mikumi elephants more vulnerable to poaching. Perhaps the no-stopping regulation along the road will make any stopped vehicle look suspicious to rangers – which could be a good thing. As long as people still stop for wildlife crossing.
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