Livestock intrusion in Ruaha National Park threatens fast-expanding tourism industry

By Lake Zone Watch writer

The uncontrolled wave of livestock intrusion in the Ruaha National Park is threatening to destroy the area’s ecosystem and the already expanding tourism industry in the country’s southern tourist circuit.

This is according to an aerial helicopter patrol carried out on Friday, November 17, this year, where an estimated 812 animals – 752 sheep and 59 cows – were found roaming in the Ihefu wetlands valley, considered the pearl and the major water source for the Great Ruaha River.

About 75 per cent of the Ruaha National Park ecosystem depends on the Ruaha Great River, meaning that its destruction by livestock would greatly affect agricultural activities and lead to the disappearance of the flora and fauna – and ultimately the end of tourism in the area.

With an area of 20,226 square kilometres, Ruaha is one of the most awe-inspiring and untouched African safari destinations.

Godwell Meing’’ataki, the Ruaha National Park Senior Assistant Commissioner for Conservation, perhaps sums it all: “When livestock intrude the park they cause a scramble for pasture and water with the wildlife. The competition for pasture and water leads to decreasing grazing land and the death of weaker wild animals. The mighty wild animals migrate to other distant pastures and find themselves invading people’s settlements.”

He said animals such as sheep, goats and cows have the habit of feeding in one place for quite long as opposed to wildlife having the habit of moving from one place to the other.

He explained that the habit of livestock staying for quite long in a single place affects the growth of vegetative cover and leads to soil erosion, land infertility and ultimately floods.

Isaya Kiwele, an expert in wildlife diseases at the Ruaha National Park, says that when livestock intrude national parks there is a major possibility of spreading communicable diseases.

“Diseases like anthrax and bird flu enter the national parks through livestock and can be spread to the community by the same animals from the national parks. In most cases, these diseases cause deaths to people and animals in the villages,” he said.

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