More than twenty desperate herds of elephants and other animals have opted to invade villages surrounding Ruaha National Park in search for water and food following acute shortage of the two items in the country's biggest national park.
This follows prolonged drought and acute shortage of water in the Great Ruaha River, which is drying up due to massive environmental and forestry degradation currently taking place at the source of the river between Mpanda Kipengele Mountains and Usangu valley.
Apart from accommodating big animals such as elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and lions, Ruaha National Park is also home to rare plants and animals such as the greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) and lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis), but are now threatened by drought as buffaloes and other animals are now migrating from the park in search of food and water.
When interviewed recently by The Guardian, chairman of Tungamalenga village in Iringa rural district Greyson Ngwale said a herd of up to twenty elephants and other animals opted to go into the village to collect mangoes, banana trunks and water.
“These animals regularly enter the village looking for mangoes, banana trunks and water; so, when we see them we usually report to the game wardens who come to get them back into the park,” he said.
An on-spot visit by The Guardian, in the company of Good News for All Ministry, a faith-based non-profit organization that had gone to pray for rains in the park, witnessed a drying river Ruaha, with exposed sharp stones owing to a very shallow water level. Where there was some little water desperate hippos and crocodiles reigned in the muddy sludge.
In an interview with Ruaha National Park chief park warden Stephano Qolli, he expressed dismay and horror over massive land and forest degradation being perpetrated by big farming companies, small-scale farmers and pastoralists along the banks of the river and at its source.
He said the big agricultural projects, coupled with a huge number of pastoralists between Mpanda Kipengele mountains and Usangu valley, diverted much water from entering the Great Ruaha River, which also supplies water to Mtera hydro-electrical dam.
He said as a result some animals whose survival depends on much water, such as hippos, crocodiles and buffaloes, were finding it very difficult to live in the park, opting to migrate to other places.
He explained that shortage of water made some animals vulnerable to diseases, such as anthrax, and fierce animals such as lions, which find them easy prey when competing for the little water in the river.
For his part, chairman of Good News for All Ministry Bishop Charles Gadi urged the government to make sure that large and small-scale farming activities were stopped to rescue animal and bird species which attract tourists to the park.