Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Damas Ndumbaro, has upgraded Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania to the status of a bio-reserve dedicated to the observation of rhinos. The rhino park will help in boosting tourism revenues for the country.
Mkomazi is one of two dozen national parks in Tanzania. Located in the Northern part of the country, the park is surrounded by both the Pare and Usambara mountains, towering above its boundaries. When the weather is clear, Mount Kilimanjaro is visible from the park.
Mkomazi shares a border with Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. Both reserves are common ground for migratory herds of elephant, oryx and zebra during the wet season. Together with Tsavo, it forms one of the largest and most important protected ecosystems on earth. The Mkomazi-Tsavo Ecosystem is is actually considered the second largest trans-boundary ecosystem in East Africa after the famous Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem.
The park is rich in mammal species, with 18 having been reported, including the “big five”. Over 450 species of birds have been recorded in the Park. Mkomazi National Park has a number of unique species and it is among few protected areas in Tanzania with a large and visible population of gerenuk, and a massive concentration of Beisa Oryx.
The park is one of the richest savannahs in Africa and possibly in the world in terms of the number of rare and endemic fauna and flora evidenced by the presence of wild dogs and black rhinoceros.
Fuelled by illegal trade in wildlife products, East Africa has experienced a sharp decline in numbers of black rhinoceros since the 1970s. From approximately 10,000 animals in 1970, it is estimated by experts that the total number of black rhinos in Tanzania is under 100.
Black rhino observation to be combined with the beaches of Zanzibar
Mkomazi is poised to become a name in the tourism world next to Tanzania’s two most famous bioreserves – the Serengeti National Park and the Kilimanjaro National Park.
Recently, Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Dr Damas Ndumbaro designated the park as a tourist destination.
The park was turned into a sanctuary for rhinos in 1989, when the government invited the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust to rehabilitate the conservation area in cooperation with the Tanzanian Wildlife Division. The rehabilitation programme for Mkomazi includes the restoration of habitat and re-introduction and breeding programmes for the highly endangered wild dog and black rhinoceros. The work has paid off as the area was finally upgraded in 2008 to a National Park. The park holds an incredible 22-year zero-poaching record, with none of the animals killed since they were reintroduced.
Although it is very rare to see black rhinos, both Serengeti and Mkomazi offer the best opportunities to have a glimpse of this rather fearful animal. Photo safaris and learning about the rhino’s protection is able to be linked with other experiences in Tanzania. According to the tourism minister, rhino tourism could be easily combined with hiking in the neighbouring Usambara or Pare mountains or relaxing on the Indian Ocean beaches of the famed city of Zanzibar.
Rhino tourism is thus clearly seen by the government as a way to strengthen tourism in Tanzania. The government has set a target of attracting 5-million tourists, which will consequently increase tourism revenues from the current €2.2bn to €5.12bn by the year 2025.