Exploring the mystical Amani-Nilo corridor: Journey of discovery, conservation

TANZANIA: EARLIER this month, the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) members embarked on a magical and enchanting field trip to the Amani-Nilo corridor in Muheza Tanga, where exciting discoveries awaited.

Nestled among the East Usambara Mountains, this hidden gem is a sanctuary for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Embarking on this fourday (from 4th to 7th March) expedition to the enchanting Amani-Nilo corridor, we (JET members) found ourselves immersed in a world where nature’s beauty intertwined with critical conservation efforts.

Settled between the Nilo Nature Forest Reserve and the Amani Nature Reserve in Muheza Tanga, this corridor holds a wealth of biodiversity that captivates the soul and ignites a passion for preservation.

As part of the Tuhifadhi Maliasili initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), JET members set up camp on the slopes of the East Usambara Mountains.

Their mission: to uncover the threats facing animal movement and biodiversity in Tanzania, a country rich in natural wonders but facing increasing challenges in preserving its ecological heritage. The star of the show?

The elusive Usambara Vosseier Eagle Owl, a majestic creature known for its silent flight and mystical presence after dark. As the group ventured through the Amani Nature Reserve, we were captivated by the beauty of this rare species, now endangered but still a beacon of hope for conservation efforts.

The owl’s distinctive features and unique hooting sounds left visitors in awe, with each night trek revealing more of its mysterious allure. This majestic nocturnal creature, also known as the global weather machine for its ability to predict natural calamities, has become a symbol of both wonder and concern.

Endemic to the Amani Forest Reserve, the owl’s presence is a testament to the delicate balance of nature in this unique ecosystem.

“The Usambara Vosseier Eagle Owl, (Ketupa poensis vosseleri) which is endemic to Amani Forest Reserve, is also known as the global weather machine as it can predict rain, drought and other natural calamities explain an Assistant Researcher Aloyce John Mkongewa.

The Researcher further shared insights about the owl’s significance, noting its endangered status and dwindling population. Once seen in parts of Malawi and Mozambique, the Vosseier eagle now finds sanctuary only within the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania, making it a prized sighting for visitors from around the world.

Tour guide Gabriel Ponera described the owl’s unique features, from its silent flight to its distinctive hooting calls. Visitors eager to catch a glimpse of this rare creature must embark on night treks through the forest, immersing themselves in the mysterious ambiance of the nocturnal world.

“The owl is very much sought after by tourists who travel from every corner of the world to simply get a glimpse of the nocturnal eagle” explains Ponera, adding that it takes a series of night forest trekking exploits for visitors to be able to view the large bird.

Acting Chief Conservator Alphonce Nyululu emphasized the value of the Usambara Eagle Owl as a symbol of conservation success. The owl’s presence not only attracts tourists and generates income for the region but also serves as a beacon of hope for the preservation of Tanzania’s natural heritage.

“The rare Usambara Eagle Owl is currently a prized species of wildlife for the Amani Forest” affirms Aldo Nyululu. Apparently, many African cultures believe that when an owl starts shrieking at night it usually predicts death or symbolizes bad luck. In addition to the owl’s allure, the Amani-Nilo corridor showcases the importance of land use plans in conservation efforts.

The Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) is actively working to protect the corridor and promote sustainable practices such as organic spice farming and ecoschool initiatives.

Esther Stephano, an environmental teacher at Zirai Primary School, highlighted the school’s success in utilizing the Amani Nature Reserve for economic growth while conserving the environment. By selling clove seedlings and embracing sustainable management practices, the school has become a model for community-based conservation efforts.

Amidst the lush forests and diverse wildlife of the Amani-Nilo corridor, women play a crucial role in biodiversity conservation.

The TFCG’s initiatives empower local women of Antakae, Kizerui, Kwezitu, Zirai, Msasa IBC, and Kwemdimu villages, to take an active part in protecting their natural surroundings, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between human activities and the delicate ecosystem.

The women of the Muheza District are also playing a crucial role in biodiversity conservation in the Amani Nilo corridor. The Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) has been working with local women to empower them to protect the precious natural resources in their area.

Through training programs and support, these women are now actively involved in initiatives such as organic farming, tree planting, and wildlife monitoring.

One of the women, Sofia Matola, shared her experience of how her community has benefited from these conservation efforts. She explained how they are now able to sustainably harvest forest products such as honey and mushrooms, which has significantly improved their livelihoods.

They also involved in spice cash crops such as clove, black pepper and cardamom In addition, the women have also been involved in advocating for the protection of the forest and its inhabitants, ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

Overall, the Amani-Nilo corridor is not only a hotspot for unique wildlife such as the Usambara Eagle Owl but also a hub of conservation efforts led by passionate individuals and communities.

The beauty and richness of this area are truly awe-inspiring, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in nature and biodiversity. In conclusion, the journey through the Amani-Nilo corridor is not just a physical exploration but a spiritual awakening to the interconnectedness of all living beings.

As we gaze upon the mystical Usambara Vosseier Eagle Owl and witness the resilience of nature in the face of adversity, we are reminded of our shared responsibility to preserve and protect the precious gift of our planet’s biodiversity.

As the sun set over the lush forests of Muheza District, the echoes of the Usambara eagle-owl’s call resonated through the corridors, a reminder of the delicate balance between nature and mankind.

With each sighting of this magnificent bird, a renewed sense of reverence and responsibility towards our planet was instilled in the hearts of all who journeyed to this magical place.

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