Managed by the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, and headed up by Tony FitzJohn, Mkomazi National Park is one of those little known gems, whose arid lands, once ravaged by overhunting and poaching, have seen the return of some of Tanzania’s finest wildlife.
While not a high density wildlife area, and boasting no real accommodation, it is, in our opinion, a must for travellers in search of something different. Crucial to northern Tanzania’s conservation efforts, Mkomazi is a shortish trip from nearby parks, and is the only place in the country that one is likely to see black rhino.
For those wishing to stay overnight at Mkomazi, and willing to contribute to the trust, there is a very real possibility that Tony FitzJohn will be able to open his house. This, in itself, is an opportunity not to be missed: together with the rhino, Tony is rearing the hunting dog – another of Africa’s endangered species.
Starting in 1995, with 25 pups from three different families, the Trusts were responding to the fact that the hunting dog has been ravaged by canine diseases, and poisoned, shot and hunted as vermin. The dogs’ behaviour has been carefully monitored, and they have been inoculated against rabies, canine distemper, parvo-virus and leptospirosis, and paired with wild females.
A wild release programme began with the introduction of 4 males into the Tsavo, Kenya. Encouraged by the (mixed) results, the Trusts have continued to seek suitable Tanzanian wildernesses for further release programmes. Along the way, Fitzjohn and his team’s work has gained international recognition, and its methods are the subject of numerous conservationist studies.
All, however, is not perfect, and an argument regarding land tenure and grazing rights deserves a fair hearing. Pastoralists evicted from their herding lands claim that the compensation packages were poor. When first established, the eastern sector of Mkomazi National Park was open to limited pastoral use among the Parakuyo, but over time the numbers of herders and cattle grew to such an extent as to threaten what was then the reserve, and it was eventually closed to all human inhabitation in 1988.
While the Mkomazi conservationists’ eviction and compensation data is held up as an example to all wild land ventures, there is still clearly some discontent, and now that the reserve has achieved park status, arguments for a limited return to herding have been rendered academic.