The Southern Highlands of Tanzania

Dozens of animals and plants are endemic to the area, many recently discovered by WCS. Others are restricted to Tanzania or the Southern Rift, and many are considered globally threatened. The region’s plateau grasslands such as Kitulo Plateau are unique centres of endemism. The Southern Highlands fall within one of just 25 ‘Global Biodiversity Hotspots’. They also constitute a global ‘Ecoregion’, contain six ‘Important Bird Areas’, three ‘Priority Primate Areas’ and are a ‘National Site of Special Conservation Significance’. The Southern Highlands are home to over 2 million people, most of whom rely on natural resources for food, medicines, building materials and income. The mountains and forests are also vital to national and local economies through soil conservation and water catchment. The Southern Highlands are ethnically diverse. Many cultures are closely tied to their environment and the landscapes have great traditional significance (from WCS website)

What’s Special?

Natural habitats across the Southern Highlands are severely threatened by unsustainable land-use practices and inappropriate resource exploitation. Natural forests and grasslands are being cleared for commercial agriculture. Forests are being felled for timber and charcoal, and fires are widespread and uncontrolled. Hunting of mammals and birds is common and there is a growing unsustainable trade in wildlife for the pet trade, especially reptiles, frogs and orchids, but also mammals and birds. Management of natural habitat is hampered by limited financial and technical resources. Declining forest cover poses serious threats to the region’s water supplies and cultural identity. Only now through the work of WCS is there a wider appreciation of the area’s biodiversity and traditional values, but the challenges of combining a growing human population, infrastructural development and environmental integrity remain (from WCS website)