Tourism experts and conservationists are concerned over the trend and they are now calling for collective efforts to address the trend that could harm tourism, one of the most vibrant sectors in the country and a leading contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP).
The 137 square kilometer park sits mostly on the eastern side of the towering Mount Meru, one of the most densely populated areas in Arusha Region. The mountain is within the park boundaries.
Samwel Sakinoi is a tourism officer in the park who says the situation has worsened to the extent that the big mammals from surrounding areas can hardly get entry into the park.
The sanctuary is home to the African giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, the black and white colobus monkey, the blue monkey, flamingos, elephants and lions. Leopards are present but are seen rarely. Birdlife in the forest is prolific with many species more easily seen there than elsewhere on the tourist route.
In ecological context, the onslaught on the sanctuary is dangerous as it can lead to the death of some species which are unable to move out of the park to search for forage or breeding grounds.
Animal population will also dwindle as wildlife that traditionally gains entry during some seasons is blocked.
"In the long run this will reduce the attraction towards the park," he said, citing a wildlife corridor at Kisimiri, north of the park which links Anapa with other protected areas such as West Kilimanjaro plains which are close to the Kilimanjaro National Park (Kinapa).
The official disclosed that at least 84 villages have been established around the park, most of them involved in intensive agriculture and livestock rearing.
The newly-established settlements have seen increased human populations.Sakinoi said while the park, in collaboration with the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), is still working out appropriate strategies to address the problem, local people are being sensitised on the need to reduce pressure on the fragile ecology of the park.
He said it was very unfortunate that some villagers living around the park have invaded it for grazing, cutting down trees for timber, farming as well as setting up settlements.
This, he insisted, was against the laws which created national parks. Under the Ordinance, no human activity should take place inside a national park.
“Human activity is to blame for the disappearance of some animals,” he warned.
The tourism officer further disclosed that horse riding has been added as a tourist attraction and that the new product has led to an increase in the number of visitors reaching the site daily to 40 from 20 just a few years ago. The park is only 30 kilometres from Arusha city.
One of the local people living around the park, Elituliza Elisa, says: “I was not aware of encroachment of the park by the surrounding communities for settlement but some people have been inside the park to collect medicinal herbs and to harvest honey.”
He explained that most of the villagers were very keen to benefit from the park through construction of schools, health centres and water supply projects by Anapa through corporate social responsibility.