Bushmeat trade pushing species to the edge in Tanzania

Jeremy Hance
February 06, 2011

 Udzungwa red colobus.  Photo: (c) Photo by Thomas Struhsaker.
Udzungwa red colobus. Photo: (c) Photo by Thomas Struhsaker.

Hunters are decimating species in the Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, a part of the Eastern Arc Mountains in Southern Tanzania, according to a new report compiled by international and Tanzanian conservationists. Incorporating three research projects, the report finds that bushmeat hunting in conjunction with forest degradation imperils the ecology of the protected area.

"Some species in this region are on the brink of extinction from one of their last remaining strongholds, especially the Udzungwa red colobus, a monkey species found only in these mountains and nowhere else in the world," said Arafat Mtui, Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Center coordinator, in a press release.

The report also finds that duikers, a small antelope, are in danger of vanishing from the forest due to hunting, and that the Angolan colobus may already have disappeared from the forest. Historically, hunting and other human impacts have long taken a toll on the forest: wiping out elephant, African buffalo, leopard, and bush pig.

"The Udzungwas [Mountains] are the pearl of the Eastern Arc Mountains because they contain the largest forests and have extraordinary numbers of plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth, including two species of monkeys," stated Francesco Rovero of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, who led the preparation of the report. "Unfortunately, while some of the forests are protected by the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, there are important forests such as Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve that have not been granted adequate protection."

The researchers recommend that immediate steps are taken to halt the decline of the forest's rare species, including stepping-up law enforcement efforts and forest patrols; providing opportunities for local communities to get involved in managing the forest; and environmental education for locals. The researchers further recommend that the government of Tanzania should upgrade the area's protected status to 'Nature Reserve'.

"The government needs to allocate the resources that are required to manage this national treasure and to address the needs of the adjacent communities,” Charles Meshack, Executive Director of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, said.

A biological hotspot, the Eastern Arc Mountains are home to some 100 unique animal species and 850 unique plants. In a recent list by Conservation International (CI) Africa's mountain forests, including the Eastern Arc, were listed as number 10 in the world's top 10 most threatened forests.

 The Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve in southern Tanzania. Photo (c) by Rovero Francesco
The Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve in southern Tanzania. Photo (c) by Rovero Francesco.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 06, 2011).

Bushmeat trade pushing species to the edge in Tanzania.