BY their nature, national parks contain the entire regional ecosystem, whereby animals are allowed to move about uninterrupted, free from any inhibitions within a given environment.
Apparently, the idea is to preserve the animal species for economic as well as social benefits to the tourist industry- apart from the fact that future generations have the right to enjoy the rich and precious inheritance. Tanzania's national parks cover slightly above 4.5 per cent of the country's vast area- estimated at 945,166 sq.km.
The country has 16 national parks - with the latest Saanane, in the Lake Victoria gulf, having been gazetted only recently. Almost all types of wildlife one sees in the national parks contain the same species. F or example, almost everywhere, a tourist would be able to have a glimpse of elephants - the largest mammal in the wildlife.
But at the Saadani National Park - an authority established by Act of Parliament and later gazetted in 2002, the story is different on account of the fact that it is one of the very few parks in Africa where big game are seen on the beaches - albeit on rare occasions.
Even then, the animalselephant and lion, may only take a stroll on the shores during the night when tourists will have already vacated the area, according to Hassan Nguluma, Saadani National Park Conservator.
However long it takes for the animals to move about on the shores, the, animals, like all other wildlife, will never ever be tempted to drink sea water which is salty by nature, he says. Saadani National Park has an area of 1,148 sq. km on land and 30 sq.km of sea.
It is a unique park as it is a combination of land and marine flora, unlike its counterparts in the inland throughout the country. It simply means that a tourist wishing to view wildlife can as well have the opportunity to take a glimpse of marine life, where hundreds of species live. In wildlife, a tourist would come across elephants, numbering about 70 of them in the park.
The giraffe, tipped to be the tallest animal in the world and Tanzania's national symbol, is also present in the Saadani, not forgetting buffaloes which resemble the cow. These are found in big numberspresently about 150 plus. Another beautiful scenery to watch is the antelope's habitat.
Unfortunately, the animals - tipped to be as delicious as goat meat, are key targets for many large mammals. Antelopes live in large forested areas where they can hibernate for fear of attack by lustful large carnivorous mammals, according to a TANAPA prospectus.
Other fascinating animals to see are warthogs, a rather ugly mammal, the size of a pig. These are capable of living without water for long duration - for three to four months. They normally live in wetlands and avoid forests, mountains and deserts.
The whole idea is to avoid hungry enemies which would otherwise easily spot them on grasslands. Under normal circumstances male warthogs never mix with their female partners -unless during mating.
At a recent tour to Saadani village, home to over 900 inhabitants, former Arab slave trading centre in East Africa, reporters saw warthogs moving freely in isolated groups of five to ten -quite fearlessly.
"Warthogs frequently move to where people live because of fear of predators such as lions and leopards," said the conservator. Other animals found in the park include gazelles, white bearded wildebeests, monkeys, hundreds bird specie, pyphons, lizards, kudu ostriches and parrots.
Others are lesser flamingos -a specie found in millions in Lake Natron, on the northern circuit. According to Nguluma, impala are not found in his park, along with black rhino.
"The two mammals are not in the Saadani, but in due course we shall have to import them in view of their importance in the tourism industry, he told the roughly 20 journalists whose trip was organized by Tanga Rural Journalists Association (TARUJA) and financed by TANAPA.
They were on four day seminar aimed at creating awareness on the journalists on how best to write on wildlife. On marine conservation, the group was informed that various species living in the Indian Ocean waters in an area owned by the park include turtles.
Green turtles, a reptile specie, are mostly found at Madete village sea shores, about 13 km from Mkwaja village. But according to a 90 year-old elder at the village, Omari Mwajasho, the origin of turtles now living at Madete is Maziwe islandoff Pangani town-an island which later succumbed to erosion , said to be caused by climate change.
"This does not mean that Madete is the only habit for turtles. But they prefer the place because it is an area where they are not interrupted," said the soft spoken Nguluma, adding that in other village shores human activities have driven them away.
"Turtles normally lay eggs -slightly over one hundred few hundreds by digging a deep hole and depositing the eggs there where they are hatched in about two weeks after which they sprout out and join the other marine life, according to Ali Mwazema, 75, retired government official who grew and brought up in Saadani.
A turtle, reaches maturity age at 15 but starts breeding after attainment of 50 years. Its life span is 100 years, says Mwazema.. Another characteristic of female turtle, he adds, is that after laying eggs and covering the deep hole with sand, she travels a long distance - even as far as Somalia.
An expert in marine life says a turtle is capable of conveniently covering a distance of 2000 km. "The long distance not withstanding, female turtles will always return to their places of birth to lay eggs when time is ripe for them to do so " explains the expert.
He says "when a female turtle is on heat she would lie flat on here back and the male would know it is time for mating."
The worst enemies for turtles are humans who go after them for meat. Humans are also fond of eating their eggs, whose size can be equalled to those of hens. Dolphins are other marine tourism potentials. They are also found in the park.
Lately, they have been a target by a few unscrupulous fishermen who go for their medicinal property- though officially they are a protected specie.
The Wami river, the most important fresh water source and other temporary rivers and dams, including Mvave river, are home to hippopotamus and fierce crocodiles. In fact, Wami river provides regular supply of essential nutrients for prawns-vital source of income for local fishers -in the words of the conservator.
He says; "Hippos and crocodiles thrive well in Wami river because of the steady and efficient patrol provided by our guides, whose duty it is to patrol the river environs with its accompanying mangrove throughout the forest park area".
In order to have a clear view of both hippos and crocodiles, tourists travel on hired boats along the mangrove lined river. The peak time for tourists visit to th park is between June and December, though there would sometimes be a break until a month later.
Tours normally end in late February. On average, the park receives tourists ranging from 4000 to 6000, according to Nguluma. W ami river originates from Morogoro while Pangani starts its journey from Kilimanjaro region mountains. Both of them empty their water in the Indian Ocean.