Monday, 2 April 2012

Tanzania Creates Smallest Game Park in East Africa

Mwanza's growth can be traced back to the days of the slave trade, as the trading caravans of the Sultan of Zanzibar used it as the frontier to the unexplored African interior in search of gold, ivory and slaves. Historians say later the European explorers such as Dr. David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, John Hannington Speke and Richard Francis Burton, followed the same route and landed in Mwanza in 1850s. Speke, who was the first European explorer to reach the Mwanza Gulf crossed the country in 1857 in search of the Source of the Nile. He was later buried in the small village of Kagaye in Mwanza, making it famous and an important historical site.

Kagaye, just beyond the city, was part of the Sukuma Kingdom and home of the Sukuma royal family and is considered one of the oldest historical sites in the country. Beyond Kagaye and the European explorers, Mwanza famous as the rock city, made another history in a tourism industry whereby Saanane National Park was created within the city and visitors enjoy watching a variety of wild animals in the open. Saanane Island is full of attractions. Boat excursions can be arranged at the National Park's offices based at Capri Point in Nyamagana District. The Island was named after Mzee Saanane Chawandi, who owned the island. It was established as the first zoo in Tanzania in 1964. The main objective was to promote interest and conservation education in wildlife, and also to promote recreation for Mwanza city residents says Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA).

Some fascinating activities visitors to the Island can enjoy include, rock climbing, picnics, game viewing and bird watching, along the shores of Lake Victoria. TANAPA stated that between 1964-1966 different species of wild animal were ferried to the Island, and these included, buffalo, bushbuck, dik dik, elephant, eland, impala, black rhino, topi, warthog, and wildebeest. Others were zebra, monkeys, giraffe, porcupine and crocodiles. However, wilder animals like rhinos were caged. The Island was upgraded to a Game Reserve in 1991.

Last year, the Tanzania government through the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, announced its intention to upgrade the Island from its previous status as forest reserve and wildlife acclimatization zone. According to the Minister for Tourism, Mr. Ezekiel Maige, the move is expected to increase the number of National Parks from the current 15 to 16 next year.

It will be the second National Park to stride Lake Victoria, the world's second largest fresh water lake after Lake suoperio in the United States after Rubondo Island.

TANAPA public relations manager Paschal Shelutete was quoted by the media as saying the proposed national park would be a home to mammals like impala, rock hyrax, velvet monkeys, wild cats, clawless otters and De-brazzas monkeys. "The aquatic part of the park will offer all types of fish, crocodiles, water snakes and monitor lizards, other reptiles, including tortoises, grass snakes, pythons and agama lizards," he added.

Saanane Island National Park warden in charge of toursim, Ms. Rukia Juma Mallya says the proposed park could be a role model to other game parks, "The island gets an average of 250 visitors per month and between 180 and 200 of those are locals," she says. Already gazetted in 2011, the Island will be the smallest National Park in East Africa, with its territory measuring some 0.7 square kilometres comprising of both dry land and Water. The Park will command a 200 metres perimeter of water South and 100 metres aquatic corridor in the North.

There is also a new proposal to be released soon that include two smaller islets the Chandkende located in southern part of the main island into the bargain, says the Acting Conservation Manager of the proposed Saa-Nane National Park Donatus Bayona. "Local residents have asked us to take under our wing the two islands in order to curb illegal fishing, environmental degradation, as well as fighting rampant crime because the waters surrounding the two land features on Lake Victoria will be manned and patrolled by TANAPA wardens," says Shelutete. He says plans are also underway to introduce new animal species to boost the islands's wildlife variety.

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