This past week has felt like one long safari trip that I never want to end. The amount of wildlife, people, and stories I have encountered humbles me greatly and I can’t believe I still have two weeks left.
I’ve been to Africa once before. Ghana, West Africa in 2011 to be exact, but my trip to Tanzania has been a different experience. I feel like I’ve truly been able to embrace and understand the not only the culture of the Tanzanian people, but also AWF’s crucial work in the Maasai Steppe landscape.
Since I’ve been staying in Tarangire National Park for the past week, I’ve learned a lot about AWF’s close work with the park. After filming an interview with the Tarangire Park Warden, Mr. Ooli and two park rangers, the most interesting thing I learned was not only the importance of protecting the national parks, but also managing the land surrounding parks. This is important because these lands risk habitat isolation and fragmentation due to overgrazing, poaching, and communities encroaching on the land. If the land surrounding the parks isn’t conserved, it in turn affects the wildlife corridors, which are a network of lands where wildlife cross to reach other national parks or areas in search of new habitats and food.
I always had this perception that wildlife would just stay in one national park for some reason. It never occurred to me the importance of migration due to the changing of the seasons and protecting the lands around parks so that animals aren’t trapped in “National Park Island.” And speaking of wildlife corridors, I had the opportunity to visit Manyara Ranch Primary school, which is a boarding school supported by AWF and the Annenberg Foundation. The school is significant to AWF because it used to be located in a middle of a wildlife corridor.
I had the chance to interview some of the students and teachers at the school, who are grateful for AWF’s support for rebuilding the school in a new location away from the corridor. According to one of the teachers, the old school used to bring wildlife dangerously close to the schoolchildren, but now the students are safe and they’re working together with AWF to conserve the land and wildlife in exchange for their support and funding. I was also very impressed with the IT computer lab generously donated to the school by the Annenberg Foundation—a stark contrast the environment of the region.
Although the students and teachers had no idea who I was or what I was doing, I found them all to be incredibly welcoming. Thanks to my driver, Dickson, a true renaissance man of all traits, we were able to communicate with everyone in Swahili. However, most students could speak broken English and I found it hilarious that they thought I was from Japan or Korean...for the record, I’m Filipino American.
Dan Duran is the winner of the first WILD to INSPIRE film competition, hosted in partnership with AWF, Nat Geo WILD and Sun Valley Film Festival. As the winner, he was chosen to travel to Tanzania to film at AWF's Manyara Ranch in December 2014.
AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.
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