The Tanzania Mammal Atlas Project is based at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) headquarters in Arusha, and is a collaborative project between TAWIRI and the Zoological Society of London, with funding from the Darwin Initiative of the British Government. The project aims to provide a comprehensive picture of mammal distribution across the country, and to use this information to develop conservation action plans for all of the larger mammals of Tanzania.
Tanzania has an extraordinarily rich mammal fauna, ranking 5th in Africa in overall mammal biodiversity. The Serengeti ecosystem alone boasts the highest diversity of ungulates in the world and the greatest density in Africa. The country’s conservation record is exceptional; 15% of the country has been set aside expressly for the purpose of conserving biodiversity, and almost 25% is granted some level of protective status. The abundance of wildlife resources has spawned a large, rapidly expanding wildlife-related tourism industry, revolving around photographic safaris and sport hunting. Tourism is the country’s second largest earner of foreign exchange, with an estimated value of $500 million per annum. Yet despite the importance Tanzania attaches to wildlife conservation, information on the distribution and status of many mammal species is limited. Wildlife surveys are restricted to the major national parks and game reserves, and generally only cover the larger species. This leaves huge areas of the country where very little is known about wildlife distribution and abundance. Many forested areas and remote village owned land have never been surveyed for instance, and many of the smaller, cryptic or nocturnal mammals are missed during surveys using traditional aerial or ground based techniques, so little is known about their status in the country. This project aims to fill in the geographic and taxonomic gaps in our knowledge of all of the larger mammals of Tanzania – those approximately 1 kg and larger. We are excluding the rodents, bats, insectivores and marine mammals, which are generally difficult to find and can often only be identified in the hand.
The project collects data through a variety of methods. We have a field team that carries out intensive camera trapping surveys across the country, particularly targeting forests, swamps and non-protected areas. Information is also gathered from published and unpublished literature sources and from questionnaire-based interviews with local residents. However our main method of obtaining data is through a growing number of supporters and collaborators who send us information on their mammal sightings. We are now simplifying this system of data collection through this new website, which allows users to directly enter their mammal sightings online. This information will go to our data reviewers and be mapped at the end of every month, so contributors will rapidly be able to view the fruits of their efforts. We encourage anyone to submit their data – whether you are just passing through Tanzania on a one time safari or are a resident or regular visitor who explores some of the remoter regions of the country.
In addition to showing updated species distribution maps, this website will also provide photographs of all larger mammals and identification information on how to distinguish some of the more obscure species, regular newsletter updates from our field survey work, a bibliography of the papers and articles available at the centre, and other articles of general interest about mammals in Tanzania. If you have any interesting information about mammals in this country that you’d like to share with a wider community, we encourage you to send it in. We look forward to hearing from you.