A new report highlights the vital importance of work being carried out by Devon conservationists in a Tanzanian forest.
It warns that human activities including widespread hunting for bush meat have brought wildlife in the poorly-protected Uzungwa Scarp rain forest in Tanzania to the brink of extinction.
Conservationists from the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, based at Paignton Zoo, have been working in the forest since 2008. The trust’s overseas conservation officer Andy Bowkett has been working with several of the report’s authors since 2004 and accompanied the expedition that gathered important data for the report.
He said: “The report highlights the importance of our work – if the forest continues to be disturbed and hunting continues at the current rate, species will be lost forever and another piece of our global wildlife heritage will be gone. The recommendations made in this report are crucial for the survival of these populations and we urge all the stakeholders to work together to follow them through.”
The report, by Tanzanian and international conservation organisations, including WWCT partners, warns that several wildlife populations in the forest will become extinct unless there is urgent investment in conservation, recruiting and training reserve personnel and partnerships with local communities to manage natural resources.
Andy said: “I visited the Scarp in 2008 to collect forest antelope dung samples for genetic analysis. There were many signs of hunting for bushmeat, including pit traps, snares and people trails – we even stayed in an abandoned hunting camp in a remote part of the forest.
“Despite the generally low numbers of antelope – due to hunting – we were able to use DNA analysis to show that the endangered Abbott’s duiker was still present. This antelope species, together with a host of extremely rare frogs, make the reserve one of WWCT’s conservation priorities. We hope we can help our Tanzanian partners protect this unique area for the future.”
Dr Francesco Rovero, of Italy’s Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, who led the preparation of the report, said: “The Udzungwa Mountains are the pearl of the Eastern Arc Mountains because they contain the largest forests and have extraordinary numbers of plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth.
“Unfortunately, while some of the forests are protected by the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, there are important forests such as Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve that have not been granted adequate protection.”