Kitulo rare flower tourism push should be tapped, not ignored

27Aug 2019
Editor
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Kitulo rare flower tourism push should be tapped, not ignored

SOME problems that conservators in the country’s national parks face are unique, not to say strange at times.

Such is the case with Kitulo National Park in the Southern Highlands where warders have to do extra work after groups of people from nearby towns and neighbouring countries increasingly target the area looking for a rare orchid flower believed to have medicinal values.

And it isn’t medicine that concerns a few people but a cure all, libido enhancing qualities.

It is said that the flower is now popular with many people from as far as Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, craving to get their hands on the flower, thus putting an edge on conservation capacity.

A senior official at the park says the flower, known locally as ‘chikundwa,’ is endemic only in the area, also known for its abundance of colorful flowers.

Strictly speaking, this is another area for tourism potential that the country was rather unfamiliar with, until this flower picking rage came up; nearby countries awoke to the medicinal pilgrimage.

The conservation official said Kitulo is home to over 45 species of ground orchids and out of these there are 31 types of terrestrial orchids that are endemic to Tanzania.

About 16 types can only grow in Kitulo and surrounding Poroto Mountains just to show how the area is unavoidable if one is looking for the medicinal values espoused.

Instead of being irked by this bush tourism where hotels aren’t part of the bill, camping sites or beaches, why not come up with a different way of tapping it? Shall it not be threatened with excess harvesting in this manner? Can it be propagated more widely?

Experts say orchids are described as wonder flowers due to their multiple uses including medicinal use as in medicinal tea, but some of its applications or specific varieties are said to help cure or impede cancer, strengthen the immune system and improve eyesight.

Those are qualities that most middle aged people think about, intensively in which case national park authorities should look for ways of throwing the seeds or enriching the pollens more widely. Then they set up flower picking safaris with a bit of a revenue extra than is the case at present, thus get out of the fear of ‘unwanted tourists’ there.

Field reports say that after Kitulo flowers were found to have qualities of boosting male reproductive ability, the management of Kitulo National Park is now doing the extra work of keeping at bay invaders who pick the flowers within the protected area.

The emphasis was on protection, on the basis of an impression that real tourists come to see wildlife, make extensive photographing or hunting, book hotels or use rugged train vehicles. They don’t come by bus and then walk into the national park, avoiding predators, etc.

There is even further use for the orchids which make their presence of considerable commercial value, as it appears that in some countries the flowers are used to make drinks and confectioneries, and elsewhere for making perfumes and deodorants.

The Chinese, always a step ahead with plant or herbal medicines, use it for medicinal purposes. If the flowers are just found in Kitulo, why not convert this site into a botanical tanzanite garden? Is it complicated?

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