Discovering bird watching opportunity in Tanzania

By Marjut Valtanen (Originally published Jul 30, 2013)

crowned hornbil1Art in Tanzania will soon offer a nice bird watching trip to a protected area of Ruvu forest reserve near Dar es Salaam. The reserve is a 35 000 hectares mosaic of coastal vegetation including open dry forest, closed dry forest, thicket, swamp, woodland and grassland. Only 10 000 ha of the reserve can be considered a forest and most of its riparian forest in the South.

The Ruvu forest is under constant pressure from the illegal production of charcoal to supply markets in Dar es Salaam which lies 45 kilometers to the North-east of the reserve. Luckily conservation efforts have already been started.

Currently the Ruvu Fuelwood Pilot Project, a project of the Forestry and Beekeeping Division is responsible for the management of the reserve and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TGCG) has been promoting joint forest management at Ruvu South since 2000. The project has seen establishment of a tree nursery and planting program to recover part of the degraded forest.butterfly

Ruvu forest reserve is part of the larger area of Kisaware district coastal forests Important Bird Area (IBA) and one of the most important coastal forests of Tanzania. According to Bird Life International, in Tanzania, coastal forest patches that are probably ‘stepping stones’ during migration are under heavy pressure and becoming increasingly fragmented.

There are several species as criteria for the status of the IBA. Of these two are endangered species; Sokoke Pipit (Anthus sokokensis) and Spotted Ground-thrush (Zoothera guttata). Additionally there are two species that are listed as near threatened; East Coast Akalat (Sheppardia gunningi) and Southern Banded Snake-eagle (Circaetus fasciolatus).

One of the recommended conservation efforts is ecotourism related to these species and bird watching tours are a perfect match to this recommendation.

“On our discovery tour to the reserve, we were walking in the Northern part of tall grassland and thickets. There are comfortable walking paths and you have nice views over small valleys and fields. In the beginning of the walk, we could hear a call of a coucal, but the bird itself is hiding in the bushes. Several yellow bishops (Euplectes capensis crassirostris) and Common bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus) fly around. Then we spot a Broad-billed roller (Eurystomus glaucurus) sitting quietly among tree branches. My favorite sightings during our walk are four Crowned hornbills (Tockus alboterminatus) and a Striped Kingfisher (Halcyon c. chelicuti).”

Bird Watching 4Besides being important area for birds, Ruvu forest reserve is also home to four Eastern Arc / Coastal Forest endemic vertebrate species and two species endemic to the coastal forests. There are also 33 species of plants within the reserve which are endemic to the Swahilian Regional Centre of Endemism. If you are really lucky, you may spot African bush elephants (Loxodonta Africana), listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN red list, which are frequenting the reserve and migrating between here and Northern Selous, another popular game reserve in Tanzania.

As Ruvu forest reserve is so close to Dar es Salaam, Art in Tanzania intends to offer bird watching tours and support conservation efforts in this area. “I truly enjoyed our couple of hour’s trip away from the bustling city into this quiet reserve and hope to visit the Southern part of the reserve soon to see which bird species can be spotted there.”

Marjut Valtanen
Art in Tanzania
Team Leader
Conservation and Fair Trade
+255 752 207 873
skype: marvalta

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