The scientists from Nature Tanzania and Tanzania Forest Conservation Group are saying the Long-billed Tailor bird which is only available in Tanzania in the East Africa region, has its numbers increased from between 150 and 200 individuals available in 2000 to 250 and 300 after intervention.
“The birds are responding well to the intervention to restore their natural habitat following deforestation and an invasive species of trees imported from Uganda,” said Nature Tanzania’s Project Manager, Victor Mkongewa said last week.
Mkongewa said with funding from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the 14 month project has witnessed significant progress from local communities involved to restore the Tailor bird’s natural habitat at Amani Nature Reserve in Muheza district of Tanga region.
Mkongewa said the scientists are targeting to continue sensitizing the communities on the benefits of the rare bird while also giving them support to engage in alternative income generating activities which do not disturb the environment such as illegal mining.
“Through this project local farmers were given seeds to engage in organic spices farming, livestock keeping, beekeeping as well as planting the indigenous tree to restore the bird’s nature environment while removing the invasive tree species which drives away the Long-billed Tailor bird,” Mkongewa noted.
The rare bird which was on the verge of extinction from Amani Nature Reserve, is only found in large numbers at Amani Nature Reserve globally hence the need to ensure its numbers are restored to thousands.
“As we continue to destroy the invasive exotic tree species, Maesopsiseminii that reduced the abundance of several bird species, the Long-billed Tailor bird is coming back,” he declared while noting that apart from attracting bird watching tourists from all over the globe, the bird will also exported once its numbers are restored to sustainable levels.
British colonial masters introduced the invasive Maesopsiseminii species from Uganda in the 1930s. In southern Africa, the rare bird is also only available in Mozambique. Under a project dubbed, ‘Sustainable Forest edge Management for the Conservation of the Long-billed Tailor bird in East Usambara Mountains,’ the project involves hundreds of residents of Shebomeza and Mbomole villages.
Among other things, the communities have been given a total of 666 Cinnamon seedlings, 60 clove seedlings, 2004 Black pepper seedlings and 2004 supporting trees for planting to restore vegetation but also earn income.
The project has also donated 10 modern beehives and several pigs to Amani Catholic Church to assist congregations engage in conservation of the biodiversity of Amani Nature Reserve while others have received cows to keep as alternative source of incomes other than depending on forests.
Village leaders and their communities have also been trained on conservation and sensitized on the importance of biodiversity to humans and birds lives.
So far 21 acres of land have been cleared from the invasive Maesopsiseminii tree species and replanted with 42 different types of indigenous tree that take short and long terms to grow and mature. The endangered Long –billed Tailor bird has huge eco-tourism benefits because bird tourists from as far as Canada, Europe, the US and China have started flocking to Amani Nature Reserve to see them.
One of the farmers to is taking part in the project, Amri Saidi said after being sensitized on the benefits of conservation, himself and other villagers have completely changed their dependence of Amani Nature Reserve.
“I and my family have also been assisted with clove, spice, black paper and other seedlings to cultivate which is a good source of income,” Said said noting that many young men who also engaged in illegal mining of gold in the reserve have since abandoned the trade.
He said through the knowledge and skills gained from the extension officers from Muheza district council, Nature Tanzania and TFCG, he also planted four acres of land with indigenous species of trees to conserve the biodiversity of Amani Nature Reserve and restore the Long-billed Tailor bird’s habitat.
“I have already signed a contract with Nature Tanzania and TFCG to plant indigenous trees in my farm so that I can conserve the forest to bring back the Long-billed Tailor bird,” he added while being backed by Aman Ward Executive Officer, Hadija Nassoro who thanked the conservation experts and project sponsors for the support.
“Nature Tanzania and TGCF’s decision to bring this project to our area is a blessing because people have received training on conservation but given alternative means to survive,” said Nassoro who also commended the experts for identifying the invasive tree, Maesopsis eminii as a threat to the rare bird.
“Right now local farmers have begun to plant indigenous trees in their farms, embark on livestock keeping and organic spice farming to conserve biodiversity of Amani Nature Reserve,” she added while stressing that conservation is also important for future generations. Amani ward has four villages with a combined population of 6,772 people according to the 2012 National Census.