The Usangu Wetlands: A new frontier for Positive Impact
In 2019, Asilia launched a project to learn more about the Usangu Wetlands region of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. The research seeks to determine how the area could be sustainably developed to promote investment for safari tourism, while also assessing needs in terms of infrastructural and conservation upgrades. The research is instrumental in learning about and monitoring this unique ecosystem and ecological trends.
The initial research findings explore the viability of tourism for Usangu, as well as familiarise Asilia with the layout of the landscape, understand the various ecozones and ecotones, learn about the biodiversity within those landscapes and habitats, and establish prospects for exciting tourism opportunities that will in turn provide funding to aid in the sustainable development and protection of the Usangu Wetlands region.
One of the key factors in creating a sustainable safari tourism model is the availability of game viewing. In the case of Usangu, one challenge to determining the game viewing potential was that the animals inhabiting the landscape were — until recently — hunted commercially and thus are very skittish toward people and vehicles, and so are not easily seen. In some cases, this could lead one to the false impression that the density in the various habitats is low, however the signs left behind including tracks and dung indicate otherwise. Our use of camera traps to better understand wildlife density and movements has also proved that there is a great amount of wildlife to be seen and protect in this beautiful region.
Over the course of the field work and expeditions there has been a notable change in the animal behaviours toward vehicles as the gradual habituation through presence has left the animals feeling more comfortable in the presence of vehicles and thus adding significant value to Usangu as a game viewing destination. Wildlife species encountered include lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog, roan and sable antelope, greater and lesser kudu, elephant, buffalo and a variety of plains game. Birding has proved to be very rewarding through the variety of habitats, with sightings of the Ruaha chat, Pel’s fishing owl and the wattled crane.
We look forward to sharing more about our work in Usangu and opportunities for travellers and wildlife enthuisasts to visit the region and support in our ongoing conservation work in the coming months.
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