SATURDAY May 6, 2023
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
The future of one of the national parks the newly crowned monarch of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland visited in Tanzania over a decade ago is in jeopardy.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is scheduled to preside over Coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey, London, along with Queen Camilla this Saturday May 6, 2023.
The ceremony comes nearly eight months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II early in September 2022.
King Charles III founded a nature walking safari route when he and his wife Queen Camilla visited Arusha National Park.
Human settlements have been squeezing the 332-square-kilometre national park since, denying wildlife animals of freedom to associate with surrounding game habitats as was the case in the past.
Conservationists fear inbreeding compounded by human settlements dotting routes the wildlife used for migrating to the neighbouring Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania, and Amboseli National Park in Kajiado County, Kenya, will, in a long term, spoil species of the animals.
Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Assistant Conservation Commissioner Yustina Kiwango admits the trend is partly delaying the state-owned conservation and tourism agency’s plan to reintroduce rhino which were until 1980s present in the park.
TANAPA is trying to convince itself beforehand if the ecology in the park is still favourable to rhino and the animal will have sufficient room to roam wildly.
“Save for Kisimiri Corridor, the park is almost isolated now, with cases of human-wildlife conflicts rising,” says the Assistant Conservation Commissioner, regretting that animals’ population had declined by 40 per cent as invasive plants continue choking the park.
Mauritius thorns (caesalpia decapita) and Sodom apples (solonum incanum) are increasingly occupying most of the park’s area at the expense of wildlife animals’ palatable plants.
Settlers are to blame for introducing the thick Mauritius thorns bush before the then Ngurdoto Crater they fenced using the invasive species was expanded to form the Arusha National Park.
Sodom apples, in turn, spread to the park from surrounding pastoral communities whose land is craving for fresh species of plants for it to regain its lost fertility.
Besides the Sodom apples, carrot top (Parthenium hysterophos) is also replacing plants that serve as livestock pasture in the communities, compelling some of the herders to encroach on the park for grazing.
“We’re sensitising our neighbours to uproot the weed, lest it continues decimating their pasture land,” Ms Kiwango, who is a PhD candidate on the resilience of savannah ecosystems, says.
It would take 20 years to eradicate the chronic invasive plants if funds were available.
A research carried out in the park shows uprooting and burning the invasive plants greatly reduce their population, but the approach will take decades to eradicate them following the remaining seed bank underneath.
Among attractions the royal couple sampled at Arusha National Park include buffaloes, giraffes and black and white colobuses.
“Huge size of a fig tree astounded the King, as a similar species scientifically known as ficus thonningii could not grow to such breadth back home,” says Mr Michael Ngatoluwa, the Arusha National Park Senior Conservation Ranger.
Mr Ngatoluwa recalls rehearsing for two weeks with the African Environment Director, Mr Richard Beatty, coaching him before King Charles III and Queed Camilla arrived in Tanzania.
“Mr Beatty introduced me to British culture including appropriate ways of addressing members of the royal family,” Mr Ngatoluwa says.
The arrangements changed upon the arrival of the royal couple, nonetheless, as most of the scheduled presentations were turned down, save for those prepared by students from Mweka College of African Wildlife Management based on the foots of Mount Kilimanjaro and the ecologist of the park.
Police vehicles with sirens, security officials, local journalists and others in the entourage had to wait for a while at Ngongongare and Momela gates before they were allowed to join King Charles III, Queen Camilla and their close aid in the park.
Tourists descending the 4,566-metre high Mount Meru situated within the park and passenger buses that ply the park road too had to wait for over an hour to pave way for the royal tourists to view attractions.
While in the park, King Charles III and Queen Camilla trekked through the maiden nature walking safari route as they viewed wildlife animals, various plant species and Tululusia Waterfalls.
They then proceeded to a public campsite for presentations on the invasive plants and snares that led to the extinction of rhino in the park which is slowly but surely turning into a large zooΩ