Islands in the sky
Despite being located far from the coast, these remote areas are often referred to as ‘islands in the sky’, as the forested mountain ranges are surrounded by a ‘sea’ of arid lowland and agriculture.
Isolated environments such as this are of huge significance from a conservation perspective and are often home to a unique array of species that are found nowhere else.
The Uzungwa Scarp Nature Forest Reserve, which is approximately 8km wide and 44km long, contains an extremely high number of threatened species, including red colobus monkeys and Sanje mangabeys. The latter species is only found in one other location in Tanzania.
Although our work here initially focused on research into the threatened amphibian populations that live there, but it quickly became apparent that the reserve itself was under threat. Species conservation relies on the conservation of appropriate habitat, so Wild Planet Trust, in collaboration with the Tanzanian Forest Service Agency and Southern Tanzania Elephant Program, initiated a project to better protect the reserve from the threats of illegal logging, farm expansion and hunting.
This work involves funding to increase the patrols that monitor and prevent illegal activities, including the removal of traps, snares and logging sites. Large mammal populations are monitored through annual camera trap surveys carried out by the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre. We are also working with local communities to ensure they can take ownership of the conservation efforts and are involved in finding the solutions that are necessary to conserve this incredible wild place for the future.
Duikers are a group of small forest antelopes found in sub–Saharan Africa. Many forest antelopes are threatened by habitat loss and hunting for bush meat.
Our work in the Udzungwa Mountains focuses on the endangered Abbott’s duiker, a species so poorly known that it had not even been photographed in the wild until 2003.
Wild Planet Trust works with partners to improve our knowledge of this secretive species using a range of surveillance strategies such as camera trapping and non-invasive genetic sampling. These studies have confirmed where populations of the duiker survive in the region and have informed the conservation measures that are now in place to protect them.
In the Uzungwa Scarp Nature Forest Reserve, we have surveyed the distribution of a number of highly endangered amphibians. The three species – Wendy’s forest toad, Poynton’s forest toad and Kihanga reed frog – are found nowhere else on Earth. This highly restricted distribution makes then exceptionally vulnerable to environmental change, so this work is incredibly important for their future.
Amphibian research and surveys have enabled us to document an incredible diversity of species, with 42 different types of amphibian recorded on the Scarp alone.
Our research into amphibians in Tanzania also helped to inform a project with the University of Exeter creating a rapid diagnostic test for diseases like chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which can wipe out whole populations of amphibians.