UNDP/GEF Support to Ruaha and Kitulo National Parks
Protected Areas (PAs) in southern Tanzania, including the Ruaha and Kitulo National Parks, are among the areas that have the largest populations of key wildlife species such as elephants. These areas need considerable investment and support to develop their full potential for wildlife tourism and sustainable development.
The Strengthening the Protected Area Network in Southern Tanzania (SPANEST) is a project supported by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in partnership with the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA). The overall aim of the project is to increase the effectiveness of the national parks in protecting biodiversity and offer long-term ecological, social and financial sustainability. Through UNDP technical and financial support, the project has undertaken a census that shows a notable decline in elephant populations in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, falling from 31,625 elephants in 2009 to just 20,090 in 2013. At this current rate, it is estimated that the elephant populations will disappear within the next seven years. The project has therefore initiated a number of actions within the protected areas including supporting the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with the development of a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, and the provision of basic infrastructure and equipment for the functioning and management of the parks.
In early January 2014, UNDP delivered some of this equipment to Ruaha National Park, the largest protected area in Tanzania and home to the greatest number of elephants in southern Tanzania. Over the course of the past two months, the park’s management has started work on rehabilitation of the internal tourism circuit routes and opening up of the connecting road to Kitulo National Park which is located some 534 kilometres away. The new connection will reduce the distance between the two parks to less than 100 kilometres and further provides an opportunity for the growing number of tourists to visit the parks. More importantly, this opening up of the park facilitates easy access for patrol teams to monitor areas susceptible to poachers as well as enhancing accessibility and connectivity for more sustainable development. Over 70 kilometres of road have been rehabilitated in Ruaha National Park using equipment provided through the UNDP/GEF project and this is also benefiting the nearby communities.
An official handover ceremony of the project equipment took place on the 26th February 2014 in Ruaha National Park. The event was witnessed by members of the SPANEST Project Steering Committee who were in Ruaha for their bi-annual progress meeting. The ceremony was officiated by the UNDP Deputy Country Director (Programme), Ms. Mandisa Mashologu and Acting Director General of TANAPA, Dr. Ezekiel Dembe. Ms Mashologu said the assistance provided by UNDP/GEF will help TANAPA to strengthen the park operations for law enforcement, ensure rapid responses to incidences of fire, support rehabilitation and general road maintenance through opening up of tourism routes, and enhance opportunities for nearby communities to benefit through income and employment.
On behalf of TANAPA, Dr. Dembe noted his appreciation for the support provided by UNDP and emphasized “the importance of conserving the unique resources of our national parks and protected areas for the benefit of our people”. The Chair of the Tourism Committees for Southern Tanzania, Mr. Adam Swai, also expressed his appreciation for the continued technical support from the project as well as for the equipment officially handed over to the national park.