Makame is a vast (4,000 km2) community conservation area in northern Tanzania, forming part of the greater Manyara-Tarangire ecosystem. Northern Tanzania is a truly beautiful part of the world and one where wildlife remains amazingly abundant, even outside of the state protected areas system. Part of the reason for this is the culture of the local Maasai people. The Maasai have a natural affinity and respect for wildlife and also do not generally hunt wildlife for meat. Poaching for ‘bushmeat’ is a major cause for the disappearance of wildlife across vast swaths of Africa and is one of the major threats facing lions. When prey numbers decline, lion numbers decline very quickly.
In the context of my work with the Lion Recovery Fund, I am privileged to spend a lot of time travelling around Africa’s wild savannahs. The purpose of these trips is to check out conservation projects that are likely to improve the prospects of effectively conserving Africa’s lions (a species that has declined in number by approximately 50% over the last 25 years). It was on such a mission that I visited the Makame Wildlife Management Area in northern Tanzania. The Lion Recovery Fund had received a proposal requesting funding from the community conservation organisation ‘The Honeyguide Foundation’ for funding to improve the management and governance of Makame. I made the trip to get a feel for the area and to meet with personnel from Honeyguide, and their partners, Carbon Tanzania.
Camera trap image
Northern Tanzania is one of the best-visited parts of Africa, but Makame is a hidden secret. Large areas of natural vegetation remain intact, and the area contains a real variety of habitats, ranging from granite outcrops, to open acacia woodland, to thick bush. Wildlife remains remarkably abundant. We saw a surprising amount of wildlife, including several sightings in very close proximity to local people. However, the highest concentrations of wildlife was seen in the wilder parts of the WMA, where we camped. Over the two days spent in Makame, we saw buffalo, eland, impala, greater kudu, zebra, dik diks, and grants gazelle – and on our way back to camp, we saw serval, a species that had not previously been recorded in the area. Though we didn’t see lions, a local herder told us that there are ‘many’ and that they are a ‘real problem because they kill livestock’. A recent camera-trapping survey by the Wildlife Conservation picked up a remarkable diversity of mammal species in the area – and given how much wildlife persists in Makame, the area offers an amazing foundation from which conservation organisations can build upon.
By working in partnership with, and building the capacity of the Wildlife Management Area, Honeyguide and Carbon Tanzania have potential to establish Makame is a critically important wildlife area. Lions are always a tricky species for pastoralists to live with as they pose a direct threat to livelihoods, but by working with local communities to prevent depredation of livestock by lions, it is possible to create a scenario where people and lions live in harmony in a shared landscape.
If you would like to learn more about the REDD project being developed in the Makame WMA and the anticipated benefits please visit the Makame project page.
Guest blog written by Peter Lindsey – Director, Lion Recovery Fund