Speaking during the launch of the findings of the Selous-Mikumi National Parks partial census conducted in 2018, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla said a further study needs to be conducted to find out reasons behind the sharp decline.
“The study that was conducted dwelt on numbers and not on the cause of the decline. That is what now needs to be studied,” he said.
The study which covered 104.14 square kilometers recorded 27 wildlife species, mostly mammals, one reptile and one avian species.
The report cautions that there is need for close monitoring following the wildebeest decline as the average population estimate from 1994 to 2006 was around 69,000 wildebeest.
But from 2009 to 2018 the average population estimated declined to around 19,000 which represents a 72-percent decline, which merits scrutiny.
The decline of the wildebeest is a concern for conservationists as the animal sustains wildlife tourism pullers among carnivorous animals such as lions, leopards and cheetahs.
The largest number of animals in the ecosystem was buffalos which numbered 66,546 followed by hippo (31,086) larger antelope (23,250) and wildebeest (22,740).
Others include zebra (22,690), impala (19,296), warthog (17,475) and elephant (15,500). On the other hand, the least abundant species were bush pig (1,208) and lesser antelope (1,579).
The study shows lesser antelope species declined rapidly in number in the ecosystem by 97percent from 50,000 in 1998.
Positive results came up whereby no fresh carcasses (less than one-year-old) were recorded and the carcass ratio dropped from 39-percent in 2014 to 16-percent in 2018, indicating significant management intervention of curbing poaching.
Conservationists say that more efforts and time is needed to reach eight percent carcass frequency which represents natural mortality.
The survey was conducted from the 21st October to 24th November 2018 with considerable funding from the German Development Bank (KfW) through the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).
The census was intended to establish the population status and geographical distribution of large animals and human activities in the Selous –Mikumi ecosystem.
“The census is an outcome of the cooperation between Tanzania and Germany, who have jointly made it possible to carry out this important work. Having good data is a crucial basis for decision making,” said Regine Hess, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Tanzania.