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Drought threatens Tanzania's largest wildlife sanctuary

Xinhua, October 25, 2016 Adjust font size:

Poaching is no longer a more serious challenge in Ruaha National Park (RNP) located in the southern highlands of Tanzania, than severe drought, which has harshly hit the catchment of Great Ruaha River.

Park managers expressed concern over the new foe, which threatens the survival of Tanzania's largest park rich in biodiversity.

Christopher Timbuka, Chief Park warden of RNP, said that currently the river catchment has turned into a dustbowl, posing a serious threat to wildlife and human activities on the river basin.

"Our new threat now is no longer poaching. It's drought. The river is a home of more than 30 fish species, which are now under threat. They remained in few ponds," Timbuka said.

He explained that recently, over 3,000 fish were found suffocated in one of the few ponds, which used to be filled with water in the river basin.

Hippos are among the animals, which are being affected by the challenge.

"Our worry as conservators is that if the rains won't rain in the next five weeks, the situation will be worse," he said, disclosing that similar drought was experienced in 1993 in the river, which flows through the Usangu wetlands and the Ruaha National Park east into the Rufiji River.

The park official said wildlife also face similar challenges as they walk long distances to avoid thirsting to death.

Amina Masenza, Iringa Regional Commissioner, admitted that the situation in the river basin is appalling, "as the river valley is dry, full of dust, something I never expected."

She called for a multi-sectoral approach to address the challenge facing the key river in Tanzania.

According to the regional chief, the river is supporting more than a million small-scale farmers, who produce a significant portion of the country's food on the lush soil in the Ruaha basin. It also provides 70 percent of Tanzania's hydroelectric power.

January Makamba, Tanzania's Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office (Union Affairs and Environment), also said: "Generally, the ecology of the entire river is under threat because of changing weather patterns and human-related activities, which reduces the amount of water in the river."

He said that deforestation, farming, and poor irrigation infrastructure lead to worryingly long dry spells in the river basin, "that's why we need to take serious measures to address challenges facing the river, including involving all people living along the river basin."