Team Iringa Trek discusses the importance of Tanzania’s National Parks

15th December 2016

Over the last three weeks Team Iringa Trek have been trekking through the environment in Southern Tanzania. As part of the trek we were lucky enough to visit the biggest national park in East Africa: Ruaha.

Photos by Andie Griffiths and Steve Freeman

Tanzania is one of the best places in the world to see wildlife. From the biggest predators, to the smallest antelopes, the country has lots to offer and it is one of the of the most bio-diverse landscapes in the world. The animals populate a variety of settings including savannah, miombo woodland, grassland area and semi-arid desert. Within the last fifty years, Tanzania has created more than twenty national parks which are patrolled by guards and scouts to ensure that the environment is protected.

Why are national parks important?

Ruaha National Park covers a huge swath of the country and it covers an area larger than Denmark. Within it you can find four of the big five animals and it is one of the best places in Tanzania to see both elephants and migrant birds. Additionally, it is the only place in Tanzania where you can spot both Greater and Lesser Kudu.

The national park system brings a number of benefits to the country. Firstly, it provides an important source of national income, as tourism is one of the country’s main sources of revenue. People come from around the world to witness Tanzania’s wildlife.

Zebras and giraffe
Zebras and giraffe in Tanzania’s National Parks

Secondly, they can provide many jobs to the youth of Tanzania. Frank, an aspiring young wildlife guide, and a member of Team Iringa Trek, is currently studying at Mkuyu Guiding School and he hopes to one day work in the national parks of Tanzania. The school is located just outside of Ruaha’s main gate and it teaches its students not only about the wildlife, but also about how we can conserve the environment for future generations. Frank says, “we must protect the green land by becoming the green generation.”

What challenges does it face?

Unfortunately, not everyone believes that protecting national parks is an important component of Tanzania’s future. Poachers have been destroying the environment and killing animals as a means of providing an income. One elephant is killed every fifteen minutes and one rhino is killed every nine hours worldwide. The latter is now on the verge of extinction in Tanzania. This could destroy the promise of future economic growth and jobs.

Furthermore, people who don’t have licenses are chopping down trees which is reducing their numbers at an alarming rate. They chop down trees in their infant stage without planting a new one. This is not sustainable. It destroys the habitat of the animals and assists the increase of global warming in the world.

Team Iringa Trek trekking
Team Iringa Trek trekking through Iringa

The main weapon against poachers and people with short-term aims is raising awareness. Frank is adamant that this is the only way to protect Tanzania’s national parks for future generations. During one of his explanations to us, Frank explained how seeds are spread which includes many agents: birds, wind, water and animals. He believes that the people of Tanzania must be the birds, the wind, the water and the animals in order to spread the seeds of environmental awareness. Just like a plant seed, environment awareness can germinate, grow and spread throughout the population.

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