Villages surrounding the park include Igava, Vikawe, Igunda, Mawindi, Itipingi, Madabila and Iwalanje.
They raised the matter when speaking to a team of journalists under the umbrella of the Association of Journalists Environment Tanzania (JET) who recently visited the area. The visit was supported by USAID Promotion Tanzania’s Environment, Conservation and Tourism (PROTECT) project.
The villagers were concerned that broader awareness on conservation matters will also address human-wildlife existing conflicts.
Lucas Mtimwa from Mawindi village said: “Majority of people here have limited education on conservation issues, this contributes in failure to address wildlife and conservation challenges including conflicts.”
Mtimwa noted that at times villagers have been avoiding meeting with game rangers and conservationists over unknown fears.
Itipingi Village Chairman Alphonce Delile said that once the villagers are fully educated on the importance of conservation and its benefits there will be no more conflicts.
Delile said: “There have been several cases of wild animals invading the villages, destroying crops and sometimes causing deaths.”
Mawindi Ward Executive Officer, Hamo Gaudai, called upon the conservation authority to visit each of the villages to educate people on the importance of conservation.
“There are some villagers who have been reached with the education, but we still have many people in the villages who are not aware of conservation issues. Leaving them uneducated threatens wildlife conservation in the Ruaha National Park,” he said.
Igava Village Executive Officer, Ibrahim Mwakisopile said that villagers do not know how to deal with the wild animals when they invade the villages. He said there are several cases of elephants destroying farms whereas authorities have promised to ensure compensation to the villagers.
“More than 50 acres of various crops were destroyed by elephants in the last farming season; to date, no villager has been compensated,” said Mwakisopile.
One of the villagers, Yassim Aloyce from Igava village said they are still unaware of the procedures required in seeking compensation. She said they have only been reporting the incidences to local leaders.
Assistant Commissioner for Conservation from the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) in the Southern regions, Pius Mzimbe, said the authority has a special neighborhood unit whereas its officials have been providing conservation education to villagers surrounding the park.
He added: “We are planning to visit all the villages, we are optimistic that ending the wildlife-human conflicts will further strengthen relationship between the park and the villagers.”
According to Mzimbe, the wildlife-human conflicts are associated with increased human activities including agriculture which have blocked the animal’s migration corridors.
Mbarali District Commissioner, Reuben Mfune, said the district council has been working closely with Tanapa in providing conservation education. He said a good number of people have been reached, and that efforts are ongoing to reach people in all the villages.
“We have been bringing conservation experts to provide education to the people around the protected areas,” he said.
Ruaha National Park is located in Iringa Region, with the size of 20,226 km2, making it the largest protected area in Tanzania and East Africa.
The park is one of the Tanzania birds’ paradise with more than 571 species and some of them are known to be migrants from within and outside Africa.
Ruaha is believed to have a higher concentration of elephants than any National Park in East Africa. It is also a place where magnificent mammals like Kudu, Sable and Roan antelopes can easily be spotted in Miombo woodland.
The park is also a habitat for endangered wild dogs. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, elands, impala, bat eared foxes and Jackals.