Mkomazi Game Reserve - A Forgotten Wilderness?
Arusha Times (Arusha)
9 August 2008
Everyday thousands of people pass near Mkomazi National Park gates at Same Town, on one of Tanzania's busiest highway. Only a few of them, however, know of its rugged acacia-covered beauty beside Usambara and Pare mountains, with Kilimanjaro in the distance.
East of the Pare Mountains, Mkomazi falls along the edge of a semi-arid savanna arc that stretches into bordering Kenya's Tsavo East National Park. Together with Tsavo Park, Mkomazi now represents one of the largest protected areas in all of Africa.
Although it hides merely a few minutes away from Same Town, the road to Mkomazi leads you to an entirely different world. The park, vast yet dense, is overwhelming with beauty. We do not need to lament that Mkomazi is forgotten as it only gives us a better feeling of what it is to be lost into the Wild.
The park's name comes from the Pare tribe's word for "water source", referring to the Umba River on Mkomazi's south eastern border. The river and other water holes keep the park abounding with small and big mammals, including silver backed jackals, lions, cheetahs, leopards, lesser kudus, giraffes, buffalos, elephants and zebras. The Park is also a birdwatcher's paradise with over 450 avian species from tawny eagles to kingfishers and many different kinds of parrots.
Mkomazi is the place where the black rhino and the wild dog have returned to roam. Indeed, the highlight of the journey is the 30 square mile Black Rhino Sanctuary. The sight of the endangered specie makes you forget that the sanctuary is surrounded by an electrified fence and heavily patrolled by armed guards. Built over 5 years it now houses a population of eight rhinos, the first of its kind in Tanzania.
Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, Mkomazi suffered a dramatic decline due to inadequate protection and severe mismanagement. During this devastating period the population of black rhinos fell from over four hundred individuals to zero. Previous to that, the park held one of the largest numbers of breeding rhinos.
The government recently promoted the reserve into a national park and extended the Ruaha Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania by incorporating Ihefu and Usangu basins. Thus Mkomazi Game Reserve is now the country's 15th national park.
Article at: http://allafrica.com/stories/200808110366.html