New article just published online about our work on the threatened elephant corridors between Selous and the Udzungwa Mountains. As the writer points out, “Without safe, smart, and well-maintained corridors between designated wildlife areas, animals can get cut off from resources needed for survival and from potential mates (putting genetic health at risk), even while conflicts with humans become more frequent.”
There’s a link to our new scientific paper at the bottom of the article.
Our Masters student from the University of Dar es Salaam, Lukinga Thabit, has been busy in the field researching the status and viability of the threatened Mtandika corridor between Udzungwa and Ruaha, an important route for elephants and other wildlife. On a recent break to do some data entry, he posted an update on how the fieldwork is going – together with an appeal for help to complete his studies. He’s finding out some interesting stuff – including some unexpected associations between elephants and goats! You can read his short progress report over on our Masters studies page.
A view from the plane
We are in the midst of an elephant poaching crisis, and even in the remotest parts of the Udzungwa Mountains, elephants are not insulated from the threat that emanates from China and her neighbours. Last month, three elephants were killed up in the mountains, and their tusks hacked off. The anti-poaching and intelligence wardens and rangers of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park are an effective force, but like everyone on the frontline in elephant country, they have their work cut out to protect these magnificent beasts from the greed and ignorance of the ivory traders.
Pilot David Moyer briefing his passengers: L to R, Arafat Mtui (UEMC), Joel Masaki (Asst Protection Warden), Pius Mzimbe (Protection Warden), Ponjoli Joram (Ecologist)
With help from the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund, we are providing some aerial support to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Apart from one day with a helicopter earlier this year, the Park has had no assistance from the air as they try to cover this challenging area of mountains and remote plateaus. So we asked local conservationist and pilot David Moyer, who is based nearby in Iringa and knows Udzungwa like the back of his hand, to do some flights and be on call with his small Cessna plane. While some of the mountainsides are cloaked in sublime closed-canopy rainforest, other extensive areas are drier and more open meaning that much useful information can be gleaned from the air. On a flight last week with both protection wardens and the park ecologist, a previously unknown elephant carcass was spotted, and some extensive fires set by poachers were discovered, prompting a rapid ground response.
Flights until now have made use of the Illovo Sugar Company’s airstrip in the northern Kilombero Valley. Park wardens are now looking into the possibility of creating some small airstrips within the Park, including in remote areas, which would help respond more rapidly to reports of poachers, fires and other threats up in the mountains.
L to R: Trevor Jones (UEP), David Moyer (Pilot), Ponjoli Joram (Park Ecologist), Joel Masaki (Asst. Protection Warden)
Jose, Paulo and Athumani (all pictured) are running in the inaugural Ruaha Marathon in Iringa, for the Udzungwa Elephant Project! Please have a look at our special events page to read more….
Chili fences are in the news this week, with a new article in the Wall Street Journal about their use in Tanzania to deter crop-raiding elephants. The article features one of our camera-trap photos showing elephant behaviour at a fence. As we point out in the comments below the article, we are seeing mixed results so far from these fences in Udzungwa – but it’s still early days.
Kate and Trevor of UEP were recently interviewed about our work and the project by our partners at the African Rainforest Conservancy. Many thanks to ARC for giving us a chance to ramble and let off steam!
Click on this image to download the whole document (7MB)
The Udzungwa Elephant Project are proud to have been involved in the epic collaborative effort to bring this important document into being. I worked for a year and a half alongside TAWIRI and WCS staff in Arusha, and around the country collecting data on the major elephant populations, to assess the current status of Tanzania’s elephants. We also surveyed officials from all 108 districts of Tanzania to understand patterns and trends in human-elephant conflict. Workshops around the country gathered input and opinions from stakeholders, and finally 70 experts represented Tanzania in a gruelling 3-day workshop to finalise all the objectives, targets and actions required to conserve and protect the country’s amazing elephant populations and habitats over the next five years and beyond. Lots more hard work now lies ahead to ensure that the Plan does not just gather dust on shelves.
Everyone reached agreement on nine national ‘strategic objectives’, representing the most important challenges facing elephant conservation in Tanzania, and the Udzungwa Elephant Project has adopted the top three (plus of course number 6!) as the main focus of our work:
1. Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC)
2. Elephant Corridors
3. Law Enforcement
4. Benefits/Sustainable Utilisation
5. Management of Ivory Stockpiles
6. Research and Monitoring
7. Elephant Health and Welfare
8. Cross-border Cooperation
9. Elephant Information Management
The Plan is ambitious, but we have to strive as best we can towards the targets that are laid out under each objective. Please download and give it a read, and if you can help in any small way towards Tanzania’s noble vision to “be a world leader in elephant conservation”, then do not hesitate!
This week we have been training Protection and Ecology staff of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park in use of QGIS, in collaboration with the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre and GIS fundi Nick McWilliam (of Map Action and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge). Quantum GIS (QGIS) is open source, completely free, high quality GIS software and therefore a great option for Tanzanian Protected Area managers and researchers to manage their spatial data, and make the maps that they need for their work. Special thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service African Elephant Fund for supporting this training.
UEP have been collaborating in creating a brand new website documenting the remaining wildlife corridors of Tanzania – as far as we know, the first of its kind in the world. Included are several important elephant corridors, which continue to be one of our priorities for conservation in southern Tanzania. As we have blogged about before:
Elephants are umbrellas! Conserve elephant corridors, and you are conserving connectivity for a wide range of other animals.
Corridor conservation is tough however, not least because corridors usually pass through the land of several villages. But the benefits for communities and wildlife of managing corridors well, make it impossible not to try. In our area, we are studying and working on ways to conserve the following critical corridors, which are featured on the new website:
Udzungwa-Selous wildlife corridors
Udzungwa-Ruaha wildlife corridor
Udzungwa-Mikumi wildife corridor
We hope you will have time for a browse, and that this website may inspire more people to think about and act on the importance of maintaining ecological connectivity across the landscapes we care about – before it is too late.
Welcome to our new project facebook page … long overdue! Sometimes we are on a poor internet connection in Udzungwa, and unable to do long blogs – so this will enable us to keep you updated more regularly…
We will still be blogging in more detail right here, though, on Wildlife Direct. Thanks for your support!