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Vist to Simanjiro land easement


TZBirder
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Friends of ours fund a land-easement project in the Simanjiro plains, east of Tarangire. (Funding comes via the Dorobo fund, mainly associated with their tourism company of the same name, but contributed to by a number of other folk, including Tarangire Safari Lodge, Asilia, etc.) I've been through Simanjiro for work, but hadn't ever travelled with the Dorobo guys to see exactly where they're working and what's happening. February is wildebeest calving time in Tanzania and it's always fun to go and see the new babies so we thought we'd try and visit a new patch of land just added to the easement project in 2011 and take a bunch of folk to have a lot of fun in the bush. The easement if focussed on the volcanic plains east of Tarangire, one of the main areas where the wildebeest and zebra head when they're not in the park (if you want to know the latest research on the Tarangire wildebeest migration, check out my blog post). The project pays very small amounts to a number of villages for them to ensure the land isn't converted to agriculture. They also set up systems whereby the villagers can report poaching events (snares, etc.) and generally encourage people to leave space for wildlife among the cattle. (Of course, when the wildebeest are on the plains and about to calve the cattle head elsewhere to avoid disease anyway.) The project works so well because paying Maasai to not farm is like paying me to go birding...

 

Anyway, as most people only see the dry season part of the Tarangire ecosystem, I thought it might be of interest to post a few pictures from the weekend. You can go and visit this area - Dorobo have concessions on the plains, though they tend to spend more time in the hills further south as they're much more interesting topographically (you can see the plains aren't that exciting...).

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It's pretty dry on the road south of Arusha at the moment! The interesting parts of Simanjiro are about 2 1/2 hrs south of town, on some dusty roads. The trip takes you off the slopes of Meru into this barren waste, before you reach an escarpment that leads up to the (fairly high altitude - we camped at 1500m) Simanjiro plains.

 

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Our campsite was in a nice Commiphora and Erythrina trees, giving a view of some of the woodlands about. We had Grant's Gazelle, Impala, Wildebeest and Giraffe visiting the camp over the weekend, with herds of eland, zebra and a bunch of smaller things all around. Jackals calling one night, hyaena spoor, etc. But nothing too scary to stop the kids having fun runing about wild in the bush...

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Erythrina trees are lovely!

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Being typical Acacia / Commiphora scrub there were some nice Senegalia senegal patches around too, which were flowering nicely and attracting a bunch of sunbirds.

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Commiphora trees are also lovely (and useful - if you want to know some things about them, read this post on the uses of Commiphora!)

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The plains themselves are less attractive, and hot in the middle of the day!

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But worth it for the baby wildebeest. We didn't see any babies until everyone seemed to have them on Sunday, so I think these guys are a few hours old...

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Very cute...

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We saw some birds too, of course. This is a red-fronted barbet, but my highlight of the weekend was a rather cute African penduline tit. We also found nests of a few things - Von der Decken's Hornbill, Swahili Sparrows, assorted doves and starlings, etc. Seemed to be quite busy with babies just now.

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And on the way back to town we managed to hit the first rains of the season - preceeded, of course, by a huge dust storm! Happily, although he power went off as we arrived home, we did manage to get some water heated to wash the dust off in the end...

 

So, hope that gives people a little bit of an idea of what Simanjiro area looks like. You can visit with Dorobo or a number of other folk (though do make sure whoever takes you is paying fees to the easement project, please! It really is making a difference, and all on only $5000 pa). And if you want to know more about the migration and Tom Morrison's studies of the Tarangire Wildbeest, do check my blog!

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Thankyou indeed. I must try and persuade my wife to up sticks and live near Arusha...

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Even more obscure location than usual, but very interesting and it's nice to hear about simple but effective projects like that. Your blog post on the Tarangire migration was well worth reading too.

 

Which direction would the disease be going, that they take the cattle away from the area when the wildebeest come to calve? And isn't that a bit of an issue in itself, or doesn't it matter because there is better grazing for the cattle elsewhere anyway at that time of year?

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The disease is Bovine malignant catarrhal fever and is spread from wildebeest (where it has few effects) to cattle (where it's fatal). Particularly during the calving period (there might or might not be a link with placentas - it's certainly transmitted in saliva, etc.). For sure the Maasai and other herders aren't best plesed by this, as they have to move their cattle away, but it's an issue they have known and dealt with in this way for a long time. The calving wildebeest prefer the plains where the views are good, the soils aren't that different in the bushier areas, so that's where the herders go. In some areas they'll orgaise huge drives to keep some plains clear of wildebeest - I've seen hundreds of Morani down on the plains south of Ndutu lined up to try and drive the wildebeest out of their plains before they calve in the past. It's a pretty entertaining sight and far from effective! They could do a better job in Simanjiro, for sure, with far fewer wildebeest, but it's not a huge cost to them to avoid the main areas for a few months, so why bother? Especially if they're being paid to let the animals be.

 

And Paul, belive me, I can do even more obscure destinations too! Tanzania is a big place, most tourists only visit tiny corners. If you don't need cats every day of your safari you can have an awful lot of fun in some stunning places for very little cost (and far bigger impact on conservation $ for $).

 

GW, bem-vindo!

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  • 2 months later...

Nice job catching the wilde calving in Tarangire. The stripe recognition software you mention in the blog is fascinating. The mind of the wilde and of the collective wildes is a mysterious thing.

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