Tanzania’s government has announced it will protect a tropical forest long recognized for its high biodiversity value and as home to numerous endangered primates and plants.
The government said it would protect the 6,463-acre Magombera Nature Reserve at the foot of the Udzwunga Mountains after researchers showed the forest was at risk of being wiped out from poaching and logging. Described as “globally unique,” Magombera hosts several diverse and threatened tree and animal species, including monkeys and galagos.
The area is also considered an important wildlife corridor for African elephants and hippopotamuses. In recent years, the reserve has had to fend off efforts to convert it into a sugar plantation or to settle squatters from adjacent agricultural land.
The new reserve is the joint effort of a consortium of stakeholders, including conservation agencies, universities, a UK-based conservation theme park, adjacent villages, and the government of Tanzania. An initial $1 million will help the forest’s management team set up protections, work with local communities, and conduct research into the wildlife and fauna of the region.
Even though calls for preservation of the reserve have been ongoing for four decades, it was the discovery of a new chameleon species in 2009 by York University conservationist Andy Marshall that earned it the global attention and increased donor support needed to push for official protection.
The current conservation plan will also eventually open Magombera up to tourism, a key foreign exchange earner for Tanzania, which has designated about 40% of its total surface area to forest, wildlife, and marine-protected areas. The plan to create this reserve also follows other efforts in Seychelles, Kenya, and Mozambique to conserve and legally protect valued biodiversity.
Even though Magombera has suffered from human activity for years, Marshall said the area was gradually recovering.
“When I first began work in the forest 15 years ago it was clearly a biologically important place, but it rang with the sound of axes and machetes,” Marshall said in a York University statement. “Over the past few years, we have worked with local villages to find alternative sources for wood and have even managed to reduce the frequency of wildfires, invasive vines and tree-cutting in Magombera, leading to thousands of small trees now growing back into the once almost-empty forest.”