Why more Biodiversity in Tanzania

With all the urbanisation, the destruction of forests and encroachment of Nature Reserves, Tanzania still harbours an incredible wealth of species.

Even Pugu Forest Reserve which is almost gone still has a higher richness of birds and plants per unit area than most countries in Europe.

A short video explains why biodiversity is higher in one spot than the other.

What is not covered in this video is that decline or increase in the richness of species does not follow the rule that poor relates with rich. In wealthier countries decline of species is often less or even absent for some habitats as compared to most poor countries.

Plastic Bag A short video why poor soils, poor environment etc. result in high biodiversity. (3:32)


Will the globally endangered Rondo Dwarf Galago survive at Pugu?

With the last hiccups of the conservation measures for Pugu Forest after the demise of the Pugu and Kazimzumbwi REDD pilot project (February 2013) we can not otherwise conclude that we are witnessing the irreversible loss of biodiversity at Pugu, this patch of East African Coastal Forest will quietly slip away in the memory of most nature lovers.
For those of us who live in Dar es Salaam it is time that we look at the new challenge which will be even more demanding and that is: to protect a patch of bushland (Pugu "Bushland" Reserve which is still protected under the law) against encroachment, mining or other human activities which may turn this potential green belt, so desparately needed for the exploding MegaCity of Dar es Salaam, into wasteland and finally a high density unplanned settlement (click on image).
Pugu Forest 2010 (October) - 2025?
The good news is that after the disappearance of the last patches of forest, the disturbance of the Pugu "forest" and its inhabitants will reduce dramatically while anybody trying to make a living from charcoal needs to move elsewhere and away from Pugu where little more will be left than ironwood, tree cassave and pigeon wood (Senna siamea, Manihot glaziovii, Trema orientalis). Harvesting of the iron wood for poles and firewood by women and local families will continue from the Pugu but with the remaining species not being suitable for making charcoal or too small, soon the loss of biomass in Pugu is expected to stop and to be replaced by overall increase of biomass (one of the objectives of the REDD pilot project).
pugu_forest_wildfires_2009 Some sections of the Pugu Forest which have been completly destroyed are now on the way back in terms of increase of biomass.
This image of Pugu Forest is taken in 2009 about 400m south of Pugu Hills Nature Centre along the Pugu Forest boundary

The current status of the "Pugu Bushland Reserve" will make the forest still vulnerable for bushfire, nevertheless recovery of the alien species not suitable for charcoal or construction is expected to result in a surprising recovery of the Pugu "Alien species Forest". As soon as the last patches of the forest have been cleared and the charcoal burners either move from the area or taken up other trades, the bush will rule at Pugu.

The loss of endemic plant and tree species at Pugu of which some are lost forever on this planet did not seem to have been adequately dramatic to stop destruction of Pugu Forest. But what will happen to the Rondo Dwarf Galago, a globally endangered mammal, will it survive at Pugu Hills after the Pugu Forest has been transformed to bushland?

Pande (Coastal) Game Reserve, a coastal forest some kilometres north (Bunju) of Dar es Salaam which already lost its biodiversity decades before Pugu Forest still had a sighting of a Rondo Dwarf Galago in 20031. (download the Pande Game Reserve biodiversity study here)

The Rondo Dwarf Galago is listed as number 30 in the Top-100 of EDGE (Globally Distinct and Globally Endangered) mammals.

Perhaps the "Pugu Bushland" habitat will prove "good enough" for the Rondo Dwarf Galago like was experienced in Pande. The growing number of middle class occupants around the Pugu "Bushland Reserve" are not involved in charcoal production and their arrival is linked with the departure of the original villagers who sell their land and move elsewhere. This change of "human habitat" around the Pugu Bushland Reserve may boost the chances of survival of the green belt albeit in the absence of its plant diversity and with or without the Rondo Dwarf Galago.

One day even the Golden Rumped Elephant Shrew (Sengi) listed as number 46 in the Top-100 EDGE list, may show up again? No recent sightings since the millenium are known to us but also biodiversity inventories have been absent at Pugu since the millenium.

With a bit of optimism and the transformation of Pugu Kajiungeni into a middle class subburb of Dar es Salaam accommodating professionals  working at the Dar es Salaam Airport and the future Kisarawe railroad hub, the status of Pugu "Bushland Reserve" may still change dramatically from illegal charcoal production site to an unique urban Nature Park.

We keep you posted about the developments.