Background: Tanzania and Loliondo

Located on the coast of eastern Africa, Tanzania encompasses varied climates, diverse wildlife populations, and a host of natural wonders including the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, and the famed Ngorongoro Crater. Tanzania has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the continent and is known as a mega-diversity country, in the company of others such as Brazil and Indonesia. Serengeti and Kilimanjaro National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the Selous Game Reserve are designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO’s Convention for the Protection of World Culture and Heritage. Serengeti-Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara National Park, and East Usambara are Biosphere Reserves.

Tanzania is party to a number of international and regional legal instruments involving conservation and wildlife protection. These include the Africa Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the Bonn Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Animals of 1979. Tanzania is host to a number of critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable animals. Black rhinoceros and Pemba flying fox are among the critically endangered. The wild dog, African elephant, and Aders’ duiker are among the endangered. The lion and cheetah are among the vulnerable.

Tanzania has a long history of various conservation schemes; fully or partially protected areas constitute nearly 14 percent of the country’s land. The creation of the different categories of protected areas began during the colonial era in late 1930s and continues to this day, as dictated by the country’s conservation needs.

For several years, Tanzania has been engaged in a difficult process of transitioning out of a colonial approach to wildlife and its preservation. Commonly known as the "fences and fines" model, the practical objective of this approach was to separate wildlife from native communities to the greatest extent possible, operating on the assumption that human activity and animal life are incompatible. Recognizing the need to amalgamate conservation and human development objectives, the Tanzanian government is now working on ways to involve communities in wildlife conservation and management to ensure that community members, most of whom have inadequate access to basic services, directly benefit from the utilization of wildlife and environmental resources located on their traditional lands.

In the case of Maasai areas, the environmental and wildlife conservation that has benefited the national economy so greatly can be directly attributed to centuries of indigenous preservation practices. The Maasai way of life is indeed compatible with conservation objectives, and had the government and others in the environmental and political realms, both nationally and internationally, learned this lesson long ago, many conflicts, both ongoing and past, could have been avoided. It is precisely the Maasai way of life that has led to the preservation and prosperity of wildlife and their habitats, which provide hundreds of millions of tourism dollars to Tanzania, while numerous other areas have suffered damaging environmental degradation. As this report will demonstrate, this lesson has yet to be adequately learned.

Today, the majority of the wildlife of Kenya and Tanzania is found within the Maasai cross-border belt, a continuous region comprising the southern part of Kenya and the northern part of Tanzania. Within this area, the Ngorongoro-Serengeti-Maasai Mara "biosphere reserve," totaling an estimated 2,305,100 hectares, is considered by wildlife and ecology experts as one of the most important ecosystems on the continent in terms of biodiversity concentration and vastness of the natural habitat. This ecosystem is actually only a small portion of the larger Maasai cross-border conservation belt, which runs from Amboseli-Tsavo National Park-Mt. Kilimanjaro ecosystem to the northern end of Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem. The major protected areas in the Maasai cross-border belt include: Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mkomazi, Lake Natron, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti in Tanzania, and Tsavo, Amboseli, Lake Natron, and Maasai Mara protected areas in Kenya.

Loliondo is located in Maasai ancestral lands in the northern part of Tanzania along the common border with Kenya. It borders the Ngorongoro highlands to the south, Serengeti National Park to the west, and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya to the north. The Loliondo Game Controlled Area (LCGA) encompasses an estimated 4,000 square kilometers, roughly a third the area of Serengeti National Park. There is no physical barrier separating the LGCA from these other protected areas; it is a continuous ecosystem. LGCA was initially established in 1959 as a Game Reserve by the British colonial government under the then Fauna Conservation Ordinance, Section 302, a legal instrument the colonial authorities used to set aside portions of land for wildlife conservation. The legal status of the reserve was later changed to that of a Game Controlled Area to allow for commercial trophy hunting, a status that defines LGCA today and haunts the wildlife of the region.

Loliondo forms an important part of the semi-annual migratory route of millions of wildebeests and other ungulates northward into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Amboseli National Park in Kenya between April and June, and returning southward later in the year. The survival of the Ngorongoro-Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem and the wildlife it supports is inextricably linked to the existence and health of Loliondo and other surrounding communal Maasai lands in Tanzania and Kenya. Similarly, the survival of the Maasai people is dependent upon the protection and preservation of their traditional land for economic viability and cultural reproduction. Land to the Maasai is the foundation for their spirituality and the base for personal and collective identity.