Tanzania has recently upgraded five wildlife reserves to national parks. There are two key aims, one is to increase the level of protection for the country’s wildlife. The other is to expand the tourism industry in the more remote, western region of the country.
TOURISM IN TANZANIA
Over 1.2 million tourists visit Tanzania annually, with 70,000 from the UK alone. The majority head for the North of the country, to visit wonders such as the Serengeti and Mt Kilimanjaro, the former receiving 350,000 visitors a year. This is increasing pressure on resources like water and electricity thanks to increased construction of luxury lodges. Further, the noise cars make often disturbs natural behaviours like playing amongst lion cubs, which is crucial for their learning e.g. how to hunt. The Tanzanian government is looking to resolve these issues by expanding the route tourist’s travel in the country. They hope developing these western national parks will help this, and bring with it incentive and funding for further economic development like road construction.
WHERE ARE THESE RESERVES AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Their main focus has been the upgrading of five wildlife reserves to national park status, all located in the west between the great lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. These are the Kibisi, Biharamulo, Burigi, Ibanda and Rumanyika reserves. This will increase the total size of Tanzanian protected areas to 60,000 square kilometres. It will allow for the development of a new route for tourists travelling from Southwest Uganda and Rwanda. This is especially important as roughly 10% of tourist arrivals in Uganda head to this region to visit the Mountain Gorillas. Therefore, there is untapped market of potential visitors to these far-flung newly created national parks.
THE BENEFITS OF NATIONAL PARK STATUS
Upgrading to national park status hopefully increases economic development. It will also allow more resources to be focused on protecting wildlife in this historically neglected region of Tanzania. Increasing the size of protected areas in Tanzania, as well as their spread around the country, will mean a greater proportion of the country’s iconic wildlife will be protected. Therefore, the country’s wildlife will be better able to withstand the threats posed to it by humans.