Poaching is threatening the survival of rare monkeys, Sanje Mangabay, a delicacy for thousands of villagers along Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve in Kilombero district, Morogoro region, it has been revealed.
The reserve is one of the largest forest patches within the Udzungwa Mountains of South–Central Tanzania covering about 200 square kilometres on the south eastern slopes of the ranges in Kilombero district.
Forest experts working in the scarp said they have noticed the small animals moving from the slopes of Udzungwa range, an indication that they were running away from the marauding villagers.
“We hardly saw any monkeys in Ikule village area where the Udzungwa scarp passes, but there were groups of the animals in Chita villages, some kilometers from the low land. It means poaching is rampant in parts of the forest located along Ikule village area,” said Mokoro Kitenana, Field Technician with Tanzania Forest Conservation Group in collaboration with Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre.
Kitenana said there were animal traps of all kinds in the mountains that targeted animals like duiker, wild pigs and species of monkeys, mostly Sanje Mangabay which is said to be a delicacy for natives living along the Udzungwa scarp.
“We found many traps in Ikule and near Chita National Service along the mountain range,” he noted.
The field technician said some of the meat of the trapped animals is eaten as a side dish and the rest sold to other consumers. Kitenana said most sought after animals are wild pigs, various species of monkeys including the Sanje Mangabay.
“If this is left to continue, the animals will be depleted from the mountains and that would be the end of tourists and foreign researchers visiting the Udzungwa Scarp,” he noted.
Renatus Bujema, a TFCG Forest Coordinator for Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve in Chita said monkey meat is sold in villages surrounding the mountain.
“But we have managed, in collaboration with the Tanzanian Community Forestry Network (TCFN/MJUMITA) to address the matter and take initiatives of patrolling the mountain to control the menace,” he said.
Justine Gwegime, Forest Conditioning and Monitoring Officer with TFCG who is leading a team of researchers in the reserve in the context of a three-year forest protection programme, dubbed “Forest Justice in Tanzania” jointly implemented by two civil societies--Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network (UJUMITA) said poaching was going on in the reserve threatening survival of the rare monkeys and other animals only found in Tanzania.
“We have these Sanje Mangabay and elephant Shrews. These are rare animals. Worse still the use of traps does not choose what animal is to be trapped,” he said, calling for collaborative efforts to raise awareness among the locals on the importance of the reserve and its benefits to the communities around it.
“In our research we have found that the more people hunt these animals, the further they move from the slopes,” he said.
Ikule village local government chairman, George Mtavango said his village has established a committee dealing with environmental conversation and protection to ensure that poaching stops in the area.
“We used to have the problem of poaching. Now every villager knows the importance of the forest. If you catch a poacher, then the person would most likely not be from this village,” he said.
The Forest Justice in Tanzania Project Manager, Elinasi Monga said it was difficult to trace some of the animals due to rampant poaching, adding: “Animals which existed here some time back are no longer available in these areas. You can only find them after travelling a few kilometres from these slopes,” he said.
The Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve is a biodiversity hotspot in the country, supporting 15 strict endemic vertebrates. Research findings so far reveal that the area supports 33 species of reptiles and 36 of amphibians.