To a sustainable coexistencein Gongo
Tanzania is full of countless natural and cultural wonders. It is renowned for its beauty and the diversity of its landscapes, but also for the richness of its fauna and flora, sheltering around 20% of large African mammals throughout the continent, and to date recording 360 species of reptiles, 85 of which are endemic, and 206 amphibian species (86 endemic). However, like everywhere else, this exceptional natural wealth is seriously threatened.
With nearly 550,000 to 700,000 individuals, the population of African elephants has decreased by 86% since 1976. This is partly due to the human population growth and its consumption requirements, which have a bigger impact on natural areas every year. These areas are deforested to harvest firewood or to build houses, for agricultural land, urban development or industrial sites.
Indeed, the anthropization of environments inevitably leads to destruction and fragmentation of habitats and a generalized loss of the corridors associated creates a growing proximity between wildlife and human communities and leads to the emergence of conflicts with human beings.
These conflicts most often occur inside or around national parks – which border densely populated villages. In villages near or inside national parks, animals live very close to humans and conflicts are more intense. When populations encroach on wildlife habitat, for example by growing their crops in elephant’s corridors, and when food sources for wildlife are destroyed, it, then, forces animals to adapt to new conditions, and results in a rising occurrence of conflicts. This precise pattern is found in particular the village of Gongo, located on the edge of Saadani National Park.
SAADANI NATIONAL PARK
Saadani National Park, in Tanzania, is the only national park that includes land and marine areas. A hunting reserve since 1969, the park was officially classified as a national park in 2005, ranking it as one of the most recent in the country. The park shares its ecosystem with the Wami-Mbiki wildlife management area through which animals, such as elephants and buffaloes, migrate. Indeed, the park is the link between different protected areas that is crucial to maintain.
However, the geographic location of Gongo village lies directly on one of the alleged elephant routes, which reaches the Wami-Mbiki wildlife management area via the Wami River. However, agriculture – the main activity of the village – as well as the industrial exploitation of charcoal, seriously weaken the forest ecosystem of Gongo and fragment the corridor used by the elephants. They are thus forced to cross the inhabited area, consequently implying inevitable damage to the crops and infrastructures of the village.
Corn fields having replaced plots of the Gongo Forest, once populated by lions and other wild animal.
Sector around the village of Gongo after logging.
Coconut filelds destroyed by elephants.
Intrusion of elephants into the village.
Capture of a video recorded by our camera traps installed by our teams on the periphery of the village.
For further information on their actions :
OUR PATNER : SANA
In collaboration with our local partner the Tanzanian association Saving Africa’s Nature (SANA), our team carried out a preliminary study on site, at the end of 2019, aimed to better understand the situation.
The mission of SANA is to restore the ecological balance of the Gongo forest, by reducing the impact of human activities. Therefore, they work with communities to help them improve their standard of living, while raising their awareness of respect for nature, helping them to reduce the impact of their activities on the environment and to understand why a healthy and preserved nature is not only beneficial to wildlife, but also to humans in the long run. SANA has been supporting communities around Saadani for ten years now, through projects in education, health and sustainable development.
Our local actions :
- Measure the damages caused by wild animals on the harvests / data collection on human-wildlife conflicts (survey of villagers)
- Tracking, camera-top break, and reports of all signs of wildlife on the corridor sector
- Feasibility study for the protection of crops against wild animals
2019-2020 outlook :
- Installation of natural barriers to protect crops and keep animals away
Determination of cleared areas to buy to reforest and allow the passage of animals.
- Promote and share knowledge with the local community to foster the long-term success of the project
The village of Gongo :
The village has around 2,000 inhabitants, mainly made up of farm families who grow pineapples, coconuts, corn, etc.).
Thanks to the involvement of Costa Coucoulis and his team, for years, with the inhabitants, the substantial help of his association for the improvement of the living conditions of the communities, (creation of a school, dispensary, direct jobs creation and tourist attraction on the Miseni site), the communities have become aware of the interest of conserving the forest and its fauna.
THE RESULT OF ON-SITE EFFORTS IS THE RETURN OF ELEPHANT POPULATIONS FOR 2 YEARS !
In order to find a way of coexistence, allowing to reconcile the activity of the community and the return of the elephants, HISA then offered its help in order to find solutions making it possible to attenuate, see preventing the destruction of cultures by the elephants – identified by 72% of the people interviewed to our on-site survey as being the species causing damage the most. Our initiatives will be part of the “ENCOSH” program for sharing initiatives to improve human-wildlife coexistence.
HISA and SANA our currently studying the different natural barriers which could minimize the intrusion of elephants into the village. The project also aims to reforest the corridor used by the elephants during their migration and to give villagers all the tools and knowledge necessary to ensure the sustainability of the project.
The king’s return :
Since the efforts put in place by the Tanzanian park authorities against poaching of elephants at the national level, as well as the efforts of our local partner SANA, led by Costa Coucoulis, the elephants are back on the periphery of the park. This is Costa Coucoulis’ first success, because they had fled the Gongo sector for years!
“The buffaloes are also back, as is the leopard that hunts around the Miseni ecolodge. By protecting the forest, and creating a positive attraction around wildlife, the villagers say they are ready to continue working for their return and their safety in the Gongo forest. “
” 15 years ago we could hear the lion roar where today the forest has been replaced by cornfields. I am hopeful to hear it roar again because many field owners are ready to give it up to replant trees. “