Updating the Tanzania Mammal Atlas Database

Purpose

The Tanzania Mammal Atlas Database provides managers of Tanzania’s protected areas with the most up-to-date information on mammal distribution, trends, and abundance around Tanzania to help inform management strategies.

About

Tanzania has the most abundant and diverse large mammal population of any country in Africa, and protected areas are still being created or upgraded to prioritize conservation and support wildlife tourism. However, despite these riches, there are still knowledge gaps on the distribution and status of large mammals in the country. It is critical for managers of protected areas (national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, and wildlife management areas) to have the most up-to-date information to help inform conservation and management strategies.

History

This project builds upon the work of the Tanzania Mammal Atlas Project, which ran from 2005- 2010 in collaboration with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, the Zoological Society of London, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The primary goal of the original project was to produce a national database of the distribution and status of all medium- to large-sized mammals in Tanzania (excluding rodents and bats). This information helped create the first distribution maps of all large mammal species and produce national conservation action plans. The project also resulted in publishing the first-ever “Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania,” making the information usable and accessible to the public.

The national database was originally populated with data gathered through interviews, submitted sightings, literature review, and field surveys. The field surveys used motion-activated field cameras and proved particularly useful in areas where there was little or no mammal data and in capturing species that are nocturnal, shy, or cryptic and therefore difficult to see. They are also useful in detecting species that are becoming increasingly active at night in areas of high human interference (e.g. leopards). By the end of 2010, the database had 46,600 entries of mammal records from around the country.

These surveys produced several key findings: The first was a comprehensive species list for the survey area. These were the first complete mammal lists ever produced for each national park, which also provided information on the status of the animal and the likelihood of a visitor seeing each species. Secondly, they provided baseline information on relative abundance and occupancy within the survey zone. Subsequent surveys can now determine how mammal density and distribution has changed over time and help inform conservation decisions.

While information is available from many of the larger protected areas in Tanzania (e.g. national parks), there are still large gaps of mammalian distribution in smaller game and forest reserves, wildlife management areas, and other remote parts of the country. Lincoln Park Zoo scientists are working with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Zoological Society of London to update the database.

Next Steps

In this new phase of the project, zoo researchers aim to collate information collected in the past decade to update the database, as well as improve the range of data incorporated in the database. Many of the same methods will be used for data collection, including several targeted motion-activated field camera surveys in areas deemed important to conservation. Species lists will also be developed for some of the more frequently visited game, forest, and nature reserves, as well as wildlife management areas.

The updated national database will be used to develop the most accurate and up-to-date range maps available for each large mammal species in Tanzania. This information, as well as species lists and populations trends will be available to help guide government policy on the conservation of Tanzania’s mammalian diversity.

Staff

Charles Foley, Ph.D.
Senior Conservation Scientist
Tanzania Conservation Research Program 
Lara Foley, M.S.
Research Coordinator
Tanzania Conservation Research Program 

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