Arusha National Park is turning into a zoo, surrounded by emerging human settlements from all sides. The country's oldest park has become an isolated wildlife oasis in which animals now face extinction due to inbreeding.
Previously, animal corridors used to connect the Arusha National Park with the West Kilimanjaro wilderness in the leeward of the continent's highest mountain, as well as Amboseli National Park just across the border into Kenya but all these passages have been blocked by human settlements.
The Chief Ecologist with the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Dr James Wakibara told the Regional Consultative Committee meeting held to address the threats of conservation areas that the Arusha National Park, being blocked from other wildernesses in which its animals used to migrate back and forth, signals danger to the wildlife.
"All animals, and even humans, must move from one place to another at times, while this is important for grazing it plays a major role when it comes to mating and breeding," explained Dr Wakibara adding that human beings have blocked all passages, causing the wildlife in ANAPA to be tightly confined within the small park.
Measuring just 137 square kilometers, the Arusha National Park, located at the foot of Mount Meru, the country's second highest peak, also happens to be the water reservoir for Arusha City because all rivers and water sources originate from this conserved area.
Despite being rather small, ANAPA has adequate wildlife; common animals include giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, the black-and-white Colobus monkey, the blue monkey, flamingos and large pythons. Large African elephants as well as leopards are present, but rarely seen and lions have since disappeared from the park.
The ecologist warned that since the animals cannot move from the park into other area, they face the danger of inbreeding which means animals have to mate and reproduce among own flock making them susceptible to diseases, albinism and other forms of nature attacks.
In addition to the usual game driving, the Arusha National Park features walking safaris, canoeing as well as mountain climbing among its tourism offerings, attracting over 120,000 tourists every year.