Conservation Threats


The Crossborder biodiversity project in Bukoba has already made some important steps in slowing the illegal logging, harvesting and burning within Minziro Forest Reserve. The formation of Village Environmental Committees will help in conservation planning, and by including stakeholders, make for a stronger and more sustainable overall planning result. Some of the main problems within the reserve are indicated and are similar to those observed throughout Tanzania as well as other developing nations. 

·         Agricultural encroachment is present only in certain areas, this is due mainly to the suitability of soil types and water logging, which makes the land unsuitable for most crops. Solving the agriculture problem is only possible with knowledge of the exact forest reserve boundary. This combined with joint enforcement by forest division and appointed community ‘teams’ would go some way to controlling the encroachment problem.

·         Illegal harvesting of mainly Podocarpus. The results of a recent survey by the forestry and bee-keeping division indicate that both legal and illegal harvesting in the reserve should be stopped. It was found that the remaining Podocarpus are small to medium sizes, and not recommended for harvesting (Tassen, 2000). Based on this report, only a blanket ban on off-take would be enforceable by the regulatory agencies.[1] It is important to note that what we are seeing here is not clear-felling but a slow and damaging degradation of the forest ecosystem.

·         Burning of grassland for cattle grazing may represent the greatest threat to Blue Swallow habitat. Pamba (1999) states that at least 5,000 head of cattle are grazed in the reserve every year. The effects of this on localised soil erosion and habitat damage is unknown. However the damage caused by the cattle herders who start grass fires to promote new growth is quantifiable, but has yet to be assessed. Having observed these fires, it is clear they are not controlled and in a dry year could represent a serious threat to the forest and agricultural land, destroying the local economy. Paradoxically, we are unsure whether the grassland within the reserve is actually maintained by ‘natural’ or man-made fires.

·         Charcoal production is a common problem and not easy to control when no alternatives are provided to the communities in question. Planting trees for fuelwood, combined with the use of energy efficient stoves may go at least some way to reducing wood and charcoal consumption.



The Baikiaea-Podocarpus seasonal swamp forests of Minziro are important to the overall avian biodiversity of Tanzania. The grassland habitat within the reserve and the papyrus, which fringes the Kagera River are also important globally as a bird habitat. Following this study, the ringing site at Minziro, which was first established in 1987, is the longest running mist-netting site within the Guinea-Congo Biome[2] (As well as one of the longest worked ringing sites in Tanzania). The data provided and outlined in this document has added considerably to what was previously known about the birds of this forest.


In line with forest policy, the status of existing forest reserves with high biodiversity values should be upgraded to nature reserves to ensure their protection in perpetuity (National Forest Policy, 1998). Minziro exhibits many of the characteristics defined by this statement. Therefore, in line with national forest policy, it is recommended that Minziro be upgraded from forest reserve to nature reserve, acknowledging its biological and genetic importance to Tanzania.

Grey-headed Sunbird Anthreptes axillaris.


[1] Regulatory agencies include the forest division, police and local community environmental committees.

[2] In Gabon, Erard et al carried out bird studies over an 8 year period, resulting in much of the longevity data presently used for Guinea-Congo biome restricted forest species.