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Conservation organizations ask Tanzania to reconsider UNESCO status for Eastern Arc Mountains

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has recently stated he would withdraw the application to list two Eastern Arc Mountains as UNESCO World Heritage sites:
Udzungwa and Uluguru Mountains. However, ten NGOS, both local and international, have asked the president to reconsider, according to The Citizen.

President Kikwete had said the withdrawal was necessary because the mountains were required for local economic reasons.

“We cannot ask for UNESCO’s permission in everything we do. There are things that we can decide ourselves,” the president said at the time, perhaps referring to UNESCO’s criticism of the government’s plant to build a road through the northern Serengeti, which scientists say will gravely impact the wildebeest migration.

However, the executive director of Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), Mr Charles Meshack, told The Citizen that the president may have misunderstood the role of the pending UNESCO Heritage sites in the Eastern Arc Mountains.

“The nominated site is restricted to areas that are already reserved under Tanzanian law and does not include any village land, general land or forest reserves,” Meshack said, adding that the application process was in its fourteenth year and the only remaining step before acceptance was an external review.

Andrew Dobson, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, recently told that World Heritage Status would actually aid local communities economically by increasing tourism to the area.

“The increase in tourism […] may well have major benefits to people living in the vicinity. If World Heritage Status were conferred by UNESCO on these sites, it would further raise Tanzania status as one of the world’s best examples of a country that appreciates its natural capitol,” he said.

The Eastern Arc Mountains contain a wealth of biodiversity with many species that are found no-where else in the world. New species continue to be discovered in the area as well. In 2003 researchers discovered a new primate, the kipunji, in the Eastern Arc Mountains; it was the first new monkey genus in the world since 1923. Three years later, scientists uncovered the largest elephant shrew in the world, named the grey-faced sengi, in the same mountain range.

East Africa’s mountain forests, including the Eastern Arc, were recently named number 10 in Conservation International’s Top 10 Most Threatened Forest Hotspots, because only 11% of Africa’s Eastern montane forests survive, and remnants are currently threatened by encroaching agriculture and bushmeat hunting.

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From the Serengeti to Lake Natron: is the Tanzanian government aiming to destroy its wildlife and lands?

(04/14/2011) What’s happening in Tanzania? This is a question making the rounds in conservation and environmental circles. Why is a nation that has so much invested in its wild lands and wild animals willing to pursue projects that appear destined not only to wreak havoc on the East African nation’s world-famous wildlife and ecosystems, but to cripple its economically-important tourism industry? The most well known example is the proposed road bisecting Serengeti National Park, which scientists, conservationists, the UN, and foreign governments alike have condemned. But there are other concerns among conservationists, including the fast-tracking of soda ash mining in East Africa’s most important breeding ground for millions of lesser flamingo, and the recent announcement to nullify an application for UNESCO Heritage Status for a portion of Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains, a threatened forest rich in species found no-where else. According to President Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania is simply trying to provide for its poorest citizens (such as communities near the Serengeti and the Eastern Arc Mountains) while pursuing western-style industrial development.

Serengeti road project opposed by ‘powerful’ tour company lobby

(03/16/2011) Government plans to build a road through Serengeti National Park came up against more opposition this week as the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators (Tato) came out against the project, reports The Citizen. Tato, described as powerful local lobby group by the Tanzanian media, stated that the road would hurt tourism and urged the government to select a proposed alternative route that would by-pass the park. Tato’s opposition may signal a shift to more local criticism of the road as opposition against the project has come mostly from international environmentalists, scientists, and governments.

Bushmeat trade pushing species to the edge in Tanzania

(02/06/2011) 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.

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