Rainforest Trust has helped establish the Magombera Nature Reserve, a 6,463-acre protected area preserving a globally unique forest ecosystem in East Africa. To create this new reserve, Rainforest Trust teamed up with a consortium of stakeholders that includes a theme park, a foundation, two other conservation organizations, four African villages, two universities, and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.
“Magombera is a global priority for so many reasons, ranging from its value to endangered primates, to its role as a wildlife corridor, to its phenomenally diverse plant community,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “Knowing of its extraordinary importance, it is a great privilege for us to band together with such a diverse coalition to work for Magombera’s protection and management.”
The nature reserve was identified as a top 10 Priority Primate Area in Tanzania as it hosts rare primates such as the Endangered Udzungwa Red Colobus Monkey, which is found exclusively around this area of Magombera Forest and nearby Udzungwa Mountains. The cooler habitats in these montane forests shelter many other species as well, such as the Udzungwa Dwarf Galago—one of the smallest primates in the world. Large iconic species such as African Elephants and Hippopotamus are also found in the Magombera Forest, as well as a wide variety of smaller fauna, including endemic species such as the Kilombero Reed Frog and Endangered Magombera Chameleon, which was only discovered here in 2009.
Since the 1970s, conservationists have been campaigning for the protection of Magombera Forest in Tanzania, which research showed would disappear by 2018. This area is part of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya, a mountain chain only slightly larger than Rhode Island but awash with an astounding amount of unique species. With over 1,000 endemic species, the Eastern Arcs are considered the most biodiverse forests of the African continent. Research has found that the Udzungwa Mountains are one of the most important within the Eastern Arcs for protection. However, without this protection, the forest would have remained threatened through agricultural expansion and illegal activities including tree-cutting for charcoal and poaching of elephants.
Despite the consortium facing significant struggles in the beginning, new financial support from Rainforest Trust, World Land Trust and the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation allowed it to reach its funding target, which was then used to secure land from a private owner of part of the forest.
Additional funds from Rainforest Trust are now also being used to develop and implement a conservation management plan for the new reserve. This will include extensive community engagement as there are more than 30 tribal groups with more than 10,000 people living near the new reserve. The Magombera Forest is a vitally important place for local communities who depend on the adjacent land for farming. Without the invaluable ecological services provided by the adjacent forest, this important agricultural region would be under serious threat from flood and soil erosion. Rainforest Trust’s local partner Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) is administering ongoing conservation and education programs to these communities. The Magombera Nature Reserve will break boundaries in forest conservation by ensuring that tourist entrance fees will go to both local communities to provide alternative livelihood options and the managing government authority.