LATEST NEWS - Frontier Tanzania


Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania has forests loaded with rich biodiversity which are also threatened by increasing pressures on resources due to increased poverty, and limited financial and human resources for conservation.

Two transect lines have been placed in two different habitats, with each line consisting of five buckets (pitfalls) placed along the line at 2m intervals. A drift fence of 10m has been placed along each of these transects to increase the catch. A range of species has been collected in pitfall traps including amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles. Two species of Hermit crab have recently been recorded, leading to the more in depth study of shell preferences of crabs based upon their species and size.

Sherman traps for small mammals have been laid out in a 20x20m area along a bearing. Because they had to be next to the village for ease of access, traps were interfered with and stolen, meaning they had to be terminated as results were void and inaccessible. In the future bicycles are hoping to be used to gain access further afield away from communities, hopefully minimising interference levels. No successful captures of small mammals could be detailed in the methodology in recent weeks.

Bird surveys are ongoing, and results on the distribution and abundance of birds in different habitat types will soon be published. General species counts continue to be the most useful and favourite survey of all the volunteers because there are no restraints about which species can be recorded. This technique keeps building up the species list on the island and is especially useful when volunteers are walking around – research can be carried out at all times!

After spending time working on repairing some old butterfly traps, at least 5 have been salvaged by using a variety of resources available in the village. Traps were placed every 20m along a 100m transect with the bait of a rotting banana. Four traps have been stolen and the removal of butterflies from the one remaining trap proved difficult because no specimen boxes were available. Future studies will be more specific and will focus on habitat and bait preference of different butterfly species. Traps most recently have been placed in different habitat areas such as within the forest canopy and near the forest clearing, gaining more information about future studies and which would yield the best result. Longer term monitoring can begin when a secure site is found for the butterfly traps.

In conclusion, few results from this field site mean that little data can be published and analysed as of yet, mainly due to the fact that individuals keep thieving the traps set up for research. Not very helpful! But on a more positive note, possible survey sites have been found for the future and good scientific research methods have been displayed.

By Laura Robinson

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The Frontier Tanzania Marine Research Program (TZM) is located on Mafia Island, off the coast of mainland Tanzania. Base camp lies inside Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) in the village of Utende, which is located in the vicinity of Chole Bay, a highly tidal and bathymetrically complex inlet separated from the ocean by Kinasi Pass and Chole Pass. The tidal range in the bay is approximately 3m on springs and 1m on neaps, with a small intertidal area at mean low water.

Phase 131 saw work from Phases 121, 122 and 123 continue, with the aim of monitoring invertebrate populations through the addition of an invertebrate survey to every underwater survey conducted. Invertebrate species are ideal indicator species for the analysis of the overall reef health. As a result of this, invertebrate surveys form a crucial part of TZM's baseline survey monitoring program. The methodology for collecting invertebrate data is similar to that of the commercial fish census, where a team of survey divers swims along the transect line, recording the number of 19 pre-selected invertebrate individuals encountered within a 5m wide belt (2.5m either side of the transect line), ensuring that the entire area is thoroughly searched. These 19 indicator species were originally taken from the ReefCheck Indo-Pacific survey protocol, however the list was adapted slightly after analysis of Phase 124's data in order to better reflect the local invertebrate communities.

Thirty eight invertebrate surveys were conducted across the four survey sites during this phase. We found that the surveys work well when there are three divers available to take part, and with more volunteers this phase it has been easier to incorporate invertebrate surveys without drawing focus away from the commercial fish surveys. The list of invertebrates to survey during this phase has been updated and seems much more appropriate than the one last phase, having added Molluscs, Brittle Stars and Sea Stars as separate categories.

Individuals of all indicator species were found at survey sites across Chole Bay, with the exception of Crown of Thorns sea stars (Acanthaster planci). Although 15 Crown of Thorns sightings were recorded during opportunistic observations prior to beginning survey work, no individuals were recorded on the surveys. The apparent absence of Crown of Thorns may be the result of a recent cull of the sea stars by MIMP staff in response to outbreaks of this species in the waters around Pemba, to the North of Mafia. The MIMP Crown of Thorns cull has apparently been successful in reducing populations of this voracious coral predator within Chole Bay, and further monitoring of the populations is required in order to assess how rapidly Crown of Thorns populations can recover. Sponges, brittle stars and segmented worms were also present in large numbers across the majority of survey sites, the presence of which would be expected in any healthy reef system.

By continuing with the newly established invertebrate species list and making invertebrate surveys a key part of the Baseline Survey Protocol conducted by TZM within Chole Bay, TZM aims to monitor large scale outbreaks or population decreases experienced by invertebrate species, as well as the impact of extractive practices on crab, shrimp, sea cucumber, bivalve and mollusc species.

By Antoine Borg Micallef

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The Frontier Tanzania Forest Research Programme (TZF) is located on Mafia Island, off the coast of mainland Tanzania, East Africa. As with the coastal forests in mainland Tanzania, Mafia Island’s forests and rich biodiversity are threatened by an increased pressure on these resources due to the lack of government resource management, increased poverty and limitations on financial and human resources for conservation. In the 1930, there reportedly were extensive coastal forests on Mafia Island, with the last being destroyed in the late 1980s in order to make room for coconut plantations. The thicket previously described has persisted as one main forest (Mrora) at the southeast side of the island, this being characterised by localized brushes such as Mkamba thicket on the western side of the island and remaining vegetation consists of swamps and mangrove forest, many small forest/thicket pockets and coconut plantations.

Although there is coastal forest present on the Mafia archipelago (predominantly along the eastern coast of the islands of Mafia and Juani), access to this forest was limited given the lack of transport available. Most work during this recent phase was therefore focalised on teaching terrestrial survey methods to research assistants, as well as reviewing literature and liaising with local individuals and bodies to determine the feasibility of gaining access to the forest and conducting research there. However, this does not mean that no research was conducted throughout this current phase. Bird surveys were still conducted by staff in Tanzania, who were assisted by an ornithologist from mainland Tanzania. The fieldwork consisted mainly of preliminary work in the form of mock bird surveys, mist netting and point counts. This work is a vital component of the research, as it allows the field staff to understand which sampling methods will yield the best results. It is expected that the actual field survey will commence towards the end of this month.

Furthermore, it has been indicated that the Tanzania team will not be pursuing crow and bat surveys in the near future, since they would like to focus on biodiversity surveys which are of greater importance. As such, there is an on-going restructuring of which methodologies will be applied and in which order. This is a very natural progression of a newly implemented project, which is starting to consolidate with further time on field. It is expected that the next phase will produce a finalised schedule of sampling regimes, together with the analysis of the preliminary data collected.

By Antoine Borg Micallef

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The Frontier Tanzania Marine Research Programme (TZM) is located on Mafia Island, off the coast of mainland Tanzania, East Africa. For this project, base camp lies inside Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) in the village of Utende. Just 300m from the camp is Chole Bay, a highly tidal and bathymetrically complex inlet, separated from the ocean by Kinasi Pass and Chole Pass, with an average depth of 20m. Survey sites during this phase were located within ‘Specified use’ zones within Chole Bay and outside the mouth of the bay.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a relatively new movement in conservation, ranging from strict no take zones to communally managed multi use parks. The MIMP was established in 1995 as Tanzania’s first multi-user zone marine park with three specific zones; Core Zone, restricted use zone, and general use zone. Within the Core Zones there is no resource extraction but diving and research are permitted, within Specified Use zones there is no pull net fishing allowed and no fishing by non-residents, and within general use zones national regulations apply and non-residents require a permit to undertake activities within the park. An important practical indicator of the MIMP success is maintaining the health of its fisheries. This phase has surveyed sites within the specified use zones of the park, hopefully enabling us to analyse the variations in the size and abundance of commercially important fish within the park.

For this phase, fish were either surveyed along a 50 m transect using Underwater Visual Census (UVC), or using point counts where the observer would remain at a fixed point and record all fish within a 10 m ‘sphere’ around them. Fish were identified to family or species level and placed into 10 cm size categories. Point count methods based on Watson and Quinn (1997) were also used at both sites to estimate fish abundance of the same commercial fish species. Fish families identified include Emperors, Groupers, Parrotfish, Rabbitfish, Snappers, Sweetlips, Trevallys and Unicornfish, thought to be the most frequently caught by artisanal fishing techniques, based on observations of the team, and discussion with the MIMP research team.

Whilst total fish counts over the last five phases seem to vary little amongst most of the selected commercial fish species, there are several notable exceptions. There seems to be a general decline in all species, other than Emperors, Sweetlips and Groupers, which only vary slightly throughout the year. However, when these observed fluctuations in total abundance were tested using one way ANOVA, the variations were not statistically significant. Comparing average sizes of selected commercial fish recorded within the bay also reveals several fluctuations. Fish assemblages on coral reefs are known to naturally vary throughout the year based on several factors that include lunar cycles, feeding activities, and seasonal recruitment. Whilst the data set might not be as complete as we would have liked, due to changes in our dive sites and difficulties in accessing others, we believe that the current methodology and new sites selected are now suitable for long term monitoring of fish, benthic and invertebrate assemblages in the bay.

By Antoine Borg Micallef

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The coastal forests of Eastern African, in particular those found in Tanzania, are recognized as important hotspots for biodiversity since they contain a vast majority of Africa’s endemic species. With the closure of the Frontier TZS project in the Kilombero Valley at the end of phase 123, the equipment from TZS was transported to Mafia with the aim of setting up a terrestrial research programme to run alongside TZM. The Frontier Tanzania Forest Research Programme (TZF) is currently located on Mafia Island, off the coast of mainland Tanzania, East Africa. The project will be focusing on two coastal forests; Mlola and Juani Forests.

Coastal forests persists in localities all over Mafia Island, but the largest of these is the Chunguruma Forest, which is notable for its dense tree canopy of palms, lianes and epiphytes and a dense underbrush of ferns. Coastal forests are also important habitats for several faunal species, with many species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and mammals having been described. Closed canopy coastal forests retain provided a suitable ecosystem for numerous endemic plant and animal species. There reportedly were extensive coastal forests in the 1930, on Mafia Island, with the last being destroyed in the late 1980s in order to make room for coconut plantations.

It is more than likely that any surveys carried out at these sites will need to be done from satellite camps. Satellite camps to the forest on the mainland could be achieved through transport via the car which the District Council have offered to provide, while excursions to Juani could be organised using Frontier’s boat. The project is currently focusing on the training of research assistants on the surveying techniques, but several preliminary works are expected to commence. The team is set to conduct several arthropod sampling techniques to gather information on specimens that occupy forest canopies and leaf litter. It is also expected that butterfly sampling will be carried out. Additionally, mist-netting for birds may be practised in the region around Utende before actual survey work begins in the forest, as mist nets are being sent out with the resupply for phase 131.

MIMP and the District Council are both keen to have research conducted to assess biodiversity (and any associated loss) in both disturbed and undisturbed sections of the forest, so that any adverse effects of anthropogenic activity can be mitigated by working with the local community.

By Antoine Borg Micallef

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Over the next few months the Tanzania Marine programme wants to initiate a conservation and ecotourism project for the Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious).

The island of Mafia harbours a relatively small population of hippos; these inhabit a network of lagoons found North-West of the island. Being it a nocturnal and semi-aquatic mammal poses numerous challenges when monitoring this species. There is no exact number of the actual population size in this area of Mafia Island, however, the Frontier team has managed to record around 20 to 40 individuals throughout their census.

Today the hippopotamus is considered to be a vulnerable species although its distribution range across Africa is extensive. There have been episodes of local extinctions due to habitat loss and fragmentation in various parts of its home range. Furthermore, numerous human-wildlife conflicts, such as persecution due to crop damage and hunting for meat have rendered the hippo increasingly vulnerable to extinction. On Mafia Island the primary threat posed to this species comes from the conflict with local villagers caused by hippos trampling and eating their crops.

The Frontier hippopotamus conservation project first started in 2011 with the aim of monitoring and protecting the hippo population on Mafia Island coupled with the clear commitment of improving the livelihoods of the local communities. The objectives were focused on starting an ecotourism project whilst setting up an ecotourism board in one of the villages surrounding the lagoons where hippos reside. The village that was chosen for the task was Gonge: this was surrounded by the highest number of hippos compared to other villages and the community appeared to have a positive attitude towards the project. Unfortunately Gonge village has decided to dissolve their board and not to act on the advice given by Frontier Tanzania Marine in 2011.

Throughout the next few months, a new phase of the project has been discussed and is ready to begin. The ecotourism project has been moved to another village called Dragoni. The locals seemed to be interested in the cause and are willing to help. Over the next phase Tanzania Marine will try to obtain an accurate population assessment of hippos living in this area such as their distribution, population size, health and movement patterns. The ecotourism project will also be initiated to promote tourism in these areas, to protect the hippopotamus and provide a possible income for the community of the village. The funds from the ecotourism project will be reinvested in building fences and ditches for local communities against crop damage from hippos and for new conservation management strategies to protect the species. Tanzania Marine will meet up with the Dragoni villagers this month in order to begin structuring a new board and ensure that the locals are still willing to undergo these changes for their own benefit and the conservation of the hippopotamus.

By Eleonora Arcese

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Tanzania’s capital city, Dar es Salaam was reported to be home to between 300,000 and 500,000 crows at the last count and efforts taken to try to control their numbers have been unsuccessful. Since their introduction into Zanzibar in 1891, House Crows have flourished and they are found in their thousands all over East Africa. They were first introduced as an attempt to clean up the streets of Zanzibar through their renowned scavenging characteristics but since then they have become an established population and have spread causing a number of problems.

Not only do they compete with other bird species for food and nesting sites, they have also been observed to be killing local birds and stealing eggs from the nests. A number of local species such as the Paradise Flycatcher have seen their numbers plummet as they try to survive against the crows. In the cities in particular the introduced House Crow is a menace; stealing food and possessions from the urbanized areas it inhabits. They have even been known to steal food straight from the hands of young children.

New research taking place on Mafia Island by Frontier Tanzania has been looking at the interactions between crow populations and the local human population, to see if they are as much as a menace as in other areas of Eastern Africa. There are two species of crow present on the Island, the House Crow (Corvus splendens) and the Pied Crow (Corvus albus), and through a socio-economic study combined with surveys the team hopes to find out the extent of the crow population in this area and how the locals perceive the birds that are deemed as such pests in the not too distant capital city.

Pilot studies of a questionnaire have been carried out on a number of local people in the area of Chole Bay on Mafia Island and so far it seems that the local people are not as bothered by the crow population at the moment as their counterparts on the mainland. They have not been reported as stealing food nor are linked with a negative spiritual connotation which has been observed in other areas of Africa. At the moment the population size of the crows has not been established so it could be that they are not in as great a proportion as they are on the mainland where they are causing so much disturbance, or perhaps they are able to find their food elsewhere so that they do not need to steal it from the human inhabitants.

The team will be carrying out surveys of the birds in the next few weeks to see what the population numbers are like and how they behave on the island. By comparing the number of individuals in areas of varying urbanization the preferred habitat of these birds can be determined as well as observations made on their behaviour when in close contact with humans and in less urbanized areas.

By Charlie Outhwaite

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Exciting new science projects are being organized by the Frontier Tanzania Forest team (TZF) and London Headquarters. The majority of the new projects will be focusing on human-wildlife interactions and socio-economic studies which will aid both local communities and conservation. Local community participation in conservation is vital if projects are going to have a sustainable long term positive impact on the environment. One such project will investigate the behavior of pied crows (Corvus albans) and house crows (Corvus splenden) and human interaction in Chole bay.

The team will be conducting an ecological bird study, which will consist of comparing three different sites where both crows and humans are present. Sites will include an urbanized area, an area with reduced human activity, and an un-inhabited area, such as waste dumps. For each site, point counts will be carried out, and number of bird species, abundance of individuals, flight distance, number of people in the area, behaviour of bird, and heights/density of trees in the area will be recorded. As well as the ecological study, the team will partake in socio-cultural studies of the impact of crows on the local communities. Many people have conflicting interactions with the crows as they steal food, and may have negative spiritual connotations. By the end of the project, we hope to produce a pest-control strategy plan.

There will also be a study assessing hippo-human interactions and investigating community perception towards hippos. TZF will investigate the hippo’s habitat range within the local area, whilst looking at hippo-human interactions by talking to local communities. Such interactions include destruction of crops and plantations in areas of villages which are close to hippo habitation. This causes conflict between farmers and hippos and in the past has resulted in farmers retaliating against the hippo populations. There have been reports that suggest a population of 30-40 hippos is present in Mafia a large population for the area. This population’s proximity to people is a concern for the team and the study will help underline key mitigation strategies, such as corral fencing.

New interaction studies in the TZF project are not all associated with conflict, for example the role of fruit bas as key ecological and economic species will also be investigated. Fruit bats are important seed dispersers and pollinators for endemic and introduced plant species. The project will review literature surrounding seed dispersal by bats and record the plant species found within the survey areas. Then a market survey will be conducted, which will assess the products of plants within the local community markets. A questionnaire survey with a cross-section of community members will focus on what bat associated products are bought more commonly, and whether providing information about this will influence perceptions of different species.

Our socio-cultural work is very important, but must be teamed with robust ecological data to provide effective feedback to be used at a local level. A mangrove study will be introduced to evaluate the mangrove health as well as its use as a nursery for commercially fished species. This will involve an assessment of mangrove biodiversity and collection of abundance data for fish and crustaceans. The team will carry-out a comparative study of fish using previous data from the Tanzania Marine (TZM) project. Finally, there will be a socio-economic study looking into community use of mangroves products, ranging from shrimps and fish, to firewood and construction materials.

By Charlie Outhwaite

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As the human population grows and expands into new areas many forms of wildlife find themselves in smaller and smaller habitats and unable to move across the land as they used to. This fragmentation of the natural landscape has meant that many species are living in a smaller land area than they need and are unable to move to other similar habitats. Wildlife corridors are a concept that is used within conservation efforts to link areas of habitat together so that the wildlife can move between these areas freely.

One species in particular that requires large areas of land to roam and so require corridors to link these areas are elephants. Elephants require large range areas to survive so that they have access to the space, water and pasture that they require over their lifetime. Elephant range area and migratory routes are gradually being reduced and closed off as humans take over more and more of the land available.

The Frontier Tanzania Savannah Team has worked on expanding a corridor within an African elephant migratory route to ensure that the movement of the elephant population remains possible. This will ensure that the elephants can reach the habitat areas they need and will maintain gene flow between different populations to maintain diversity.

This migratory route links two areas that are rich in local wildlife; the Selous-Mikumi ecosystem and the Udzungwas Mountains. The route, known as the Kilombero Valley, between these areas also contains a number of farms and villages which have been increasing in size and number due to a significant increase in immigration into the Kilombero Valley area in recent years. These populated areas have disrupted and in some cases stopped elephant movement altogether. Frontier has been working with local people to mark out land use boundaries to ensure corridors remain open so that the elephant populations have access to the land they need.

By Charlie Outhwaite

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The Tanzania Savannah Team has been mist netting in the Kilombero Reserve to monitor the bird species present and their populations. Whilst conducting the study an endemic Kilombero Weaver (Ploceus burnieri), which is vulnerable according to the IUCN redlist, was captured. The species is declining and is sensitive to anthropogenic forced change, such as the increased use of pesticides; however it is abundant in suitable habitat. The individual caught by the team was found to have Avian Pox (Avipoxivirus), a disease which is severely impacting bird populations worldwide. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) along with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have implored birdwatchers in the United Kingdom to report any sightings of birds with symptoms to the Wildlife Enquiries Unit so that they can be treated and spread of the disease can be mitigated (ZSL, 2012).

The team then decided to study the occurrence of the disease in local bird populations to see if the disease was affecting more avifauna. Fortunately, no further cases were found in wild populations throughout the study, possibly indicating that the disease has not spread widely as of yet. However, there were many instances where local poultry were found to be affected. This could mean that the disease is spreading from livestock to wild population by biting insects.

There are two types of the virus, one carried by biting insects, such as mosquitoes, and the other is inhaled into the lungs. Birds affected by the former often heal within two weeks whereas prognosis of the latter is little known. It is not possible to tell which type is being carried at first sight, however vaccination is available. The Tanzania team will look to garner further understanding of this disease in poultry and wild birds at their new base on Mafia Island.

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The Kilombero Valley has long been an important area for large mammal populations and at one time had the largest density of Wildlife in Tanzania located outside of protected areas. Immigration into the Kilombero Valley has increased significantly in recent years. This change has had a direct impact on large mammal populations. Frontier Tanzania Savannah is monitoring this impact and is working with local villages and district councils to preserve the remaining natural habitat within the area.

One species of large mammal that Frontier Tanzania Savannah is working to conserve is the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), which is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is difficult to estimate distribution and density of elephants because of their enormous ranges and because they occupy a wide variety of habitats.

Frontier Tanzania Savannah is monitoring the presence of African elephants in the Kilombero region using tracks and scat sampling. The results from the latest phase (02/04/12 – 08/06/12) shows an evidential decrease in the number of large mammal signs, including elephants, and also an increase in human disturbance in all areas undergoing surveys compared to previous phases. This includes more farming within these areas and a larger presence of pastoralists. This increased presence of cattle and human settlements in the survey area could be a reason for the decrease in large mammal recordings.

The conflict between humans and elephants is widespread across Africa, as elephants can cause expensive damage to human property, including raiding food crops, damaging houses and occasionally injuring and killing people or livestock. Resolving this conflict is one of the most pressing wildlife management issues in Africa. Elephants, although tolerant to moderate levels of human disturbance, are unable to survive when landscapes are dominated by farmland. Where conflict between elephants and humans is left unsettled elephants will always eventually lose. Frontier Tanzania Savannah is working in partnership with local authorities to manage land use and determine boundaries between agricultural land and protected land. This work is imperative in resolving the local human-elephant conflict.

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Frontier’s Tanzania Savannah project is located in the Kilombero Valley, Morogoro Region, Tanzania. The Kilombero Valley covers an area of 6,650km² between the Udzungwa Mountains National Park and the Selous Game Reserve

Frontier’s Staff and Research Assistants out on the Tanzania Savannah project have been very busy focusing and working really hard on Large Mammal Transects. So far they have managed to complete 14 large Mammal Transects in the area around camp which also involved a short stay in a satellite camp to collect data from further afield.

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On the 10th of May Frontier Tanzania completed their first successful awareness raising day on Mafia Island at the Utende Primary School

This fun and educating day was organised to make pupils and teachers more aware of marine creatures and the importance of research and conservation. The second awareness day was at Kitomondo Secondary School where a fantastic play was performed on whale sharks and many other fun activities including pin the tail on the hippo, getting both the students and teachers involved.

Read more about our Tanzania Teaching and Beaches Project, the Tanzania Marine Conservation & Diving Project or other Frontier Volunteer projects in Africa.


Great news - our Tanzania Wildlife Tracking and Community Adventure Project has been featured in DEFRA’s Darwin Initiative Newsletter.

We’ve just received the great news that Frontier’s Tanzania Wildlife Tracking and Community Adventure Project has been featured in DEFRA’s Darwin Initiative Newsletter.

The Darwin Initiative aims to promote biodiversity, conservation and the sustainable use of resources around the world and as such is it a great honour to be featured in their newsletter which reports on some of the most important conservation and biodiversity projects around the world.

Founded at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 by the UK Government the Darwin Initiative helps countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources meet their conservation objectives. Out of the 96 active projects funded by the Darwin Initiative in 80 countries around the world – Frontier’s Wildlife Tracking and Community Adventure Project was selected to be featured in the newsletter. Everyone at Frontier London HQ and all our field staff working out in Tanzania are ecstatic and delighted at the news.

Frontier’s staff and volunteers out on the Wildlife Tracking and Community Adventure project in the Kilombero Valley in Tanzania have successfully protected two vital wildlife corridors between the Udzungwa Mountains and the Selous Game Reserve. These corridors are essential to the conservation of wildlife in the area and will ensure that large mammals can pass between these reserves.

We have been working with local communities to try and preserve the remaining wildlife corridors in the area, which recently came under threat from the expansion of local villages. Frontier’s staff and volunteers set up workshops to explain the concepts and local people were elected to map the villages so that Land Use Management Plans could be devised to help mitigate the impact of local village expansion on the wildlife corridors. As a result two corridors including the highly threatened Ruipa corridor were successfully protected and all involved were highly pleased with the outcome. Everyone here at Frontier is hugely proud of all our staff and volunteers that worked so hard to make this project a success – thank you all for your amazing contribution.

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