(eTN) – Tanzania has a new tourism minister. Appointed earlier this year, Shamsa Selengia Mwangunga is the new minister of Natural Resources and Tourism for the United Republic of Tanzania.
Prior to this post, Mwangunga served as deputy minister of Water for two years, and has been a member of parliament, special seat, from 2000-2008. Earlier, she held various posts within the public and private sector of Tanzania, including Tanzania-Swiss Trust Fund Executive Secretary, Business Care Services Projects Manager and Small Industries Development Organization-SIDO Manager Coordinator. Minister Mwangunga began her career as a teacher, and later was acknowledged for her highly successful roles as an engineer, champion of women’s rights and Member of Parliament.
Meanwhile, efforts to expand Tanzania’s national parks have continued. “In all of the wildlife countries, Tanzania has the greatest percentage of protected land,” said Peter Mwenguo, Managing Director, Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB). “Close to 30 percent of our land is dedicated to the preservation of wildlife, flora and fauna.” With the addition of Mkomazi in the North, Tanzania now has 15 National Parks, 32 Game Reserves and the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, which is part of its own unique conservation area.
Mkomazi, Tanzania’s 15th national park
Now an exciting new development for wildlife lovers is unfolding in northern Tanzania. Added to Tanzania’s 14 national parks will be the restructured Mkomazi, a 56-year-old former game reserve. As the centerpiece of the new national park, Mkomazi is joined with the Umba Forest Reserve, and shares a border with Tsavo National Park. Tanzania’s 15th national park plays a key role within the greater ecosystem as safe migratory routes and dispersal areas for herds of elephants, oryx and zebras during the wet season and as a protected area for giraffes and many other birds and animals year round.
According to Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) director general Gerald Bigurube, Tanzania is constantly working on upgrading its game reserves to national parks. “In a national park there is no consumptive use of resources and this allows for the multiplicity of species, increasing the wildlife in the parks.”
The transformation of Mkomazi into a National Park has served three major purposes: the re-securing of its land as a haven for wildlife, including the reintroduction of the critically endangered (and once extinct in East Africa) black rhino and the hunting dogs; the upgrading of the entire infrastructure of 500 miles of road, an airfield, and dams and water sources within the new area; and the introduction of an innovative outreach program to villagers living in surrounding areas. Construction of schools and clinics, new boreholes and water pumps, the formation of women’s groups and a soccer team, and the introduction of cultural tourism are all part of the program meant to benefit the people of Tanzania as well as its wildlife.
Although first time visitors must see Tanzania’s safari icons in the North, the great migration of the Serengeti, the famous Ngorongoro Crater, Mountain Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Tarangire and Arusha National Parks, extended air service has made it possible to include the South in the same itinerary. Whereas Arusha is the safari capital of the North, Dar es Salaam, the exotic port city and commercial capital of Tanzania, is the jumping off point for the South.
“Since Tanzania’s tourism strategy is to encourage high quality, low volume tourism, the Southern Circuit creates more diversity in the safari circuits and helps avoid mass tourism,” said TTB marketing director Amant Macha.
The Selous Game Reserve, at 55,000 square km is the largest in Africa and larger than the country of Switzerland. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along the Rufijii River, Selous offers the tourist different game viewing experiences, boat safaris, as well as walking safaris. In addition to its masses of elephants, hippos, buffalo, it is the remaining home of the Black Rhino and is also home to 25% of the continent’s wild dog population.
Ruaha National Park will soon be combined with Usangu Game Reserve, and expected to increase its size by over 15,000 square kilometers; if this expected size remain the same, it will make Ruaha the largest National Park in Africa.
According to Bigurube, one of the aims of the government in annexing Usangu to Ruaha is in part to save the biodiversity of that area as well as to increase tourism to the region. “This can best be accomplished if the area is administered and marketed by TANAPA.”
Ruaha, which boasts 10,000 elephants, the largest population of any East African national park, protects a vast tract of the rugged semi-arid bush country that characterizes central Tanzania. Its lifeblood is the Great Ruaha River, which courses along the Eastern boundary of the park. A fine network of game-viewing roads follows the Great Ruaha and its seasonal tributaries, where, during the dry season, impala, waterbuck and other antelopes risk their life for a sip of life sustaining water. The risk is considerable with prides of 20 plus lions lording over the savannah, the cheetahs that stalk the open grassland and the leopards that lurk in tangled riverside thickets. Ruaha is also home to over 450 bird species. The Usangu Game Reserve includes the Ihefu Wetland, the natural water reservoir for the Great Ruaha River.
Other parks in the South include Mikumi, set between the Uluguru Mountains to the north and the Lumango mountains to the south-east and within a short flight from Dar es Salaam, Mikumi is teeming with wildlife and 300 species of birdlife.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park, one of the world’s key biodiversity hot spots, is especially known for its 10 or so species of primates, including the rare Iringa Red Colobus and the Sanje Crested Mangabey as well as the bizarre giant elephant shrew. Its constant climate has given rise to a range of flora and fauna, and sometimes called the African Galapagos.