Climate Change Effect on National Parks in Tanzania

By Veronica Donald – Art in Tanzania internship

Climate encompasses the statistics of meteorological conditions, that is, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle counts and other meteorological element in a given region over a long period of time. Climate change is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that alert the composition of global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural variability observed over comparable time period. Variability may be due to internal natural processes within the climate system or variation in anthropogenic external forces. A national park is predominantly unaltered area of the land and/or sea characterized by exceptional and varied natural assets comprising one or several preserved and predominantly unaltered ecosystem and is primarily set aside for conservation of original natural assets.

Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, covering the area of 945209 km2, 60000 of which is inland water. It’s shares the boundaries with eight countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Zambia. Tanzania lies close to the equator in East coast of Africa between parallel 1 S and 12 S and meridian 30E and 40E. By being close to the equator, climate variations in temperature are not very extreme. Tanzania is among of African countries in terms of biodiversity of both flora and fauna species in its terrestrial and marine ecosystem, it has numerous vegetation cover distributed along the diverse landscape. It is a home of endemic plants and animal’s species most of which are of world importance. It has 16 national park such as Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Mikumi, Saadani, Saa nane Island, Katavi, Gombe, and etc.


Climate trend in Tanzania

Rainfall Pattern

Rainfall pattern in country is subdivided into: tropical on the coast where is humid and hot (rainy season is March-May): semi-temperate in the mountains with short rains in November-December and long rains in February-May: and drier in the plateau region with considerable seasonal variation in temperature. The mean annual rainfall varies from 500 mm to 2500 mm and above, the duration of dry period is five to six months. However recent rainfall pattern has become more unpredictable with some areas receive extremely maximum and minimum rainfall per year.

Temperature Pattern

Temperature in Tanzania also varies according to geographical location, relief and altitude. In the Coastal regions temperature ranging between 27℃ to 29℃, while in central, Northern and Western parties, temperature ranges between 20℃ to 30℃ and higher between month of December to March. In the Northeast and Southeast where there is mountainous and Makonde plateau, the temperature occasionally drops to 15℃ at night during months of June and July.

The following are the effects of climate change to National Parks in Tanzania.

Water shortage for large mammals especially in the period of law rainfall is the main challenge to facing wildlife, the places that naturally used to dry water during dry season are no longer used to dry water and thus water dependent animals such as hippopotamus, crocodiles, buffaloes are found crowded in few remaining water ponds elephant eg in Ruaha National Park. Seriously lack of surface water led to considerably hippopotamus and buffaloes’ mortalities. Suffering from lack of water, wildlife physiological functions are impaired and they are becoming easy targets to poachers and predators. Thus, with changing climate and associated decrease in water availability due to reduced amounts and altered seasonal distribution of rainfall, the existing water related problems are likely to be compounded (Elisa at all., 2011, cf. Kangalawe, 2010).

Human-Wildlife conflicts

Due to climate change, wild animals from National Park are roaming around the adjacent villages to search for pastures and water. So many events of crop raiding occur and thus cause human-wildlife conflicts. The animals commonly involved in these conflicts are hippopotamus, buffaloes and elephants and this may be aggravated with changing climatic conditions example is in Lake Manyara National Park.

Affects nature-based tourism

Tourism has close connections to environment and considered to be highly climatic sensitive sector. Climate variabilities determine the length and quality of tourism seasons, thus play a major role in the destination choice and tourist spending. Climate affect a wide range of environmental resources that are key attraction to tourism such as snow conditions over mount killimanjaro, wildlife productivity and biodiversity. Climate also has an effects on environmental conditions that can deter tourists including infectious diseases, wild fires, waterborne pest and insects.

Glacier retreat in Mount Kilimanjaro

The early retreat of glaciers on the Kilimanjaro was due to natural climatic shifts whilst the warming up of the Earth after the industrial era has led to current faster recession of the glaciers. There is no argument today regarding the retreat of Kilimanjaro glacier; the glaciers have been retreating in unprecedented scale in the recent years directly because of climate change. The   retreat of the glaciers is probably the most iconic indication of climate change impacts in Tanzania (Ibid). The most recent available data shows that the glaciers were about 4.2km2 in 1976 (Hastenrath and Greischar, 1997). In 2000, the remaining glaciers were only 2.6km2 (Thompson, et al., 2002).

 Ecosystem shift

Climate change is altering environmental niche and cause species to species their habitat range, as they track their ecological niche. Species shifts allow species to persist but may negatively affect existing species in these areas because the shifted species may be a primarily source of food to the existing species..

Speciation is an evolutionary process by which new ecological species arise. Due to various natural processes including geographical separation and drift, some species become separated. In consequences, under changing climatic conditions and due to natural selection, new species are established. Climate change and invasive species pose ecological challenges to the world. The impact of climate change and rise in average global temperature can have a profound effect to the specie’s geographical ranges that are often set primarily by climate and the host environment. Climate changes alter destination of habitat and increase vulnerability to invasion because of resource scarcity and increased competition among native flora and fauna. Example, Argemone mexicana in Ngorongoro CA.

Strategies for climate change

Enhance resilience of wildlife Ecosystem to impacts of climate change.

This can be done through promoting wildlife management practice that increase resilience to climate change, establishing a wildlife climate change related monitoring and information management system and enhancing protection and conservation of wildlife habitats.

Ensure water quality availability and accessibility in a changing climate.

This can be achieved by protection and conservation of water catchment areas, invest and promote appropriate water management technology, invest exploration and extraction of underground water and conduct vulnerability assessment in water resources.

Undertake research on climate change impacts.

Undertake a detailed and coordinated research on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, mitigation measures and develop technology that will ensure sustainable response system for minimizing impacts and risks associated with changing in climate.

Adequate financial resources for climate change adaptation.

This can be done through effective and efficient system for planning and mobilization and management of climate change funds.


Climate, tourist attraction, wildlife habitat is closely associated to National Parks. Change in climate have directly influenced tourism seasonality and indirectly affect natural attractiveness of the parks by changing tourism flagship species and natural landscape. Decreasing rainfall and increasing temperature have led to more drier conditions and increased aridity resulting to shortage of water for wildlife.


Elisa, M., Gara, J.I., and Wolanski, E. (2011). A Review of Water Crisis in Tanzania’s protected areas with emphasis on Katuma River-Lake Rukwa Ecosystem. Journal of Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology [DOI: 10.2478/v10104-011-0001-z]

Fischlin, A., Midgley, G.F., Price, J. T., Leemans, R., Gopal, B., Turley, C., Rounsevell, M. D.A., Dube, O. P., Tarazona, J., and Velichko, A.A. (2007). Ecosystems, their properties, goods, and services. In Parry, M.L., Canziani, O.F,. Palutikof, J. P., van der Linden P. J., and Hanson, C.E. (Eds.), Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Workin Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 211-272.

Kangalawe, R.Y.M. (2010). Mainstreaming climate change adaptation in the management of freshwater resources in the Rufi ji Basin. A consultancy report submitted to the Ruaha Water Programme. WWF-Tanzania Country Offi ce, Dar es Salaam.

United Republic of Tanzania – URT (2002). Population and Housing Census 2002. United Republic of Tanzania. National Bureau of Statistics, Dar es Salaam.

Hastenrath S, Greischar L. 1997. Glacier recession on Kilimanjaro, East Africa, 191 89. Journal of Glaciology 43: 455-459.

Thompson LG, Mosley-Thompson E, Davis ME, Henderson KA, Brecher HH, Zagorodnov VS, Mashiotta TA, Lin PN, Mikhalenko VN, Hardy DR, Beer J. 2002.Kilimanjaro ice core records: evidence of Holocene climate change in tropical Africa. Science 298: 589-593.