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The Tarangire-Manyara Heartland

  • Saturday, January 1, 2000

Composed primarily of savanna, lakes, swamps and flood plains, the Tarangire-Manyara Heartland includes Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, the Marang Forest, a large area of the Masai Steppe and small urban areas. Much of the land outside the parks is used for ranching or agriculture. It is in this Heartland that Tanzania National Parks and AWF pioneered community conservation, encouraging park authorities and local people to address wildlife issues together.

AWF's Partnership Options for Resource-Use Innovation (PORI), a project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and designed to help develop community-based wildlife enterprises in northern Tanzania, was the first African Heartland effort. Through PORI, AWF works with landowners, park officials and other stakeholders to ensure that wildlife and human communities alike thrive.

One PORI effort over the last year has been to develop a consistent approach to the appearance and marketing of the Heartland's two national parks. Among the recommendations for Tarangire are constructing high-quality tourist facilities and relocating the main gates. Plans for Manyara call for converting existing bandas (huts) into a youth hostel and the park's entrance gate and museum into an education facility. AWF has contracted with an engineering firm to assist in bringing these plans to life and with a design company to develop posters, guidebooks and brochures for both parks. Staff housing also will be renovated, and park staff will receive training in activities such as firefighting.

In October, AWF and USAID jointly sponsored at Tarangire an environmental review guidelines workshop to help park managers throughout Africa understand the ecological, institutional, regulatory and socioeconomic contexts in which they operate. Participants discussed the design of projects that would not have negative effects on natural resources.

The AWF Conservation Service Centers also help communities establish wildlife management areas. A new land-use concept that the Tanzanian government developed to decentralize wildlife management, these areas are designated as community-owned, where wildlife activities are locally directed, independent of large-donor projects. The Conservation Service Center in Arusha developed a 12-step process for establishing wildlife management areas.

The Tarangire Elephant Project, conducted by Princeton University doctoral candidate Charles Foley with Lara Foley, is in its second year of studying Tarangire's elephant population and its rebound--to 2,600 individuals--since the widespread poaching of the 1980s. The researchers count elephants migrating outside the park and (in conjunction with the Tarangire Manyara Conservation Project) have equipped five elephant matriarchs with radio tracking collars. The elephants seem to be resuming the same pattern of migration (out of the park during the wet season) that they followed prior to the years of poaching. The Foleys also encountered an elephant in Tarangire that gave birth to three sets of twins during a seven-year period, a startling discovery since the chance of an elephant bearing twins is less than 1 percent. Another female in the same family group also had twins. Although more data is needed, it's possible that genetics influence multiple births in elephants, as they do in humans.

AWF also helped community groups, government agencies and park authorities with training plans tailored to their needs.

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Close up photograph of elephant ivory pile
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