The lion population in Africa overall has declined by 43% in the last twenty years. The good news is that 50% of the lion population in Africa occurs in Tanzania!
Saadani National Park in Tanzania offers a fabulous, immersive opportunity for anyone who has wanted to get deeply involved in conservation whilst being on a safari. Here one has the unique experience and can spend time in a national park, commensurately assisting with funding to introduce zebra, to increase the lion population (through translocation of species as well as strengthening the gene pool) and to assist in funding the collaring of the present small lion and elephant populations.
Already original migratory paths have been reopened – and some farms willingly relocated. The problem being that a migratory route is deeply embedded in the DNA of an elephant and therefore it will tread this path for millennia. This area has a variety of habitats including marshy swamps, lots of palms – borassus and Ilala as well as combretum and a beautiful evergreen forest.
One has the benefit of both marine and land based flora and fauna with green turtles nesting on the beach and herds of elephant, buffalo and sable antelope as well as lion. The birdlife is fabulous too and one can see Palm nut vultures and African fish eagles as well as hippo and crocodiles whilst boating up the Wami River.
There are several game viewing circuits and salt flats which one can walk across dotted with palm trees and the entire park is approximately 1100 sq. kms. But the remarkable point is that the park is the only wildlife sanctuary that borders the sea.
So, after your morning game drive, you can then take a stroll along the deserted beaches or take a swim in the sea and perhaps take a boat ride in the afternoon. This is not about luxury – but rather about an exciting opportunity to assist the preservation of these species in Africa. The most exciting aspect is to see the potential in the area and the fact that the government is starting to be far more proactive about protecting its national parks!
In 2010, ‘A Tent with a View’ opened the new Saadani Research Centre in the grounds of its camp. The primary reason was to study a growing elephant population in one of Tanzania’s smallest parks. Conflict was growing with the local people. Sixty coconut trees felled in a single night by just three bull elephants. Animals dying with thick wire snares coiled tight around their trunks.
There was also the issue of corridors to other protected areas; essential routes to vital nutrients and a stronger gene pool. Collaring a total of 25 elephants in Saadani and its nearest neighbouring conservancy, Wami-Mbiki, allied to work with communities, led to the identification of an essential corridor and patrols to negotiate safe passage and to test its viability.
The centre has continued to conduct wildlife research since 2010 and currently houses monitoring initiatives into green turtles, and recently re-introduced zebra. In February 2019, the team expect to collar lions from three separate prides in the park. Lions denning in Mangroves, potentially metres from turtle nests, are unique in Africa.
At least two of the strongest prides in the area spend a significant part of their lives in village land along the coast, with all the inherent conflict that implies. The population of ungulates is dangerously unpredictable due to mass migrations and, if 60% of the park’s wildebeest disappear suddenly, will the lions look for food in a village?
The proximity of the relationship between ‘A Tent with a View’ and Saadani National Park, is rare and undoubtedly unique. All projects for the park are developed together and an academic partner is then chosen. Masters and PhD students from Dar es Salaam University will be joining the lion project over its course, and further cooperation is being discussed with Leeds University in UK.
It is hoped the centre will become central to the park’s strategy, giving visitors an additional reason to choose Saadani, namely an opportunity to learn about lions, not just photograph them whilst contributing towards the vital role of sustainable conservation. It was built to forge a long term study of the Saadani eco system, with research properly supported financially.
The weight of the three way collaboration allows projects to be focused on the most necessary requirements of the park, rather than the compromised goals of poorly funded study. The full time involvement of the park guarantees an easy flow of key ecological information and better relations between all three groups. The camp, of course, benefits from the clients proximity to the researchers, and just possibly, a few more heads are turned in the direction of a more equitable and sustainable planet