Entries in marine (4)


New Survey  Techniques

So it’s a new quarter and the start of a new ‘phase’ for Frontier. The Mafia Island Marine Park have expressed an interest in knowing the biomass of the fish within the Marine Park.

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The 5 Best Species To See In Tanzania

Home to the famous Serengeti National park, Tanzania is normally the go-to country for spotting the Big Five and it also attracts a vast amount of attention due to its annual migration of over one million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra. But what other species are best to see in this country?

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In Search of Sengi

In the forests of Mafia Island early in the morning and late in the afternoon it is possible to hear animals running through the undergrowth, occasionally stopping to rustle through the leaves for food then moving again.

These noises most likely belong to the Black-and-rufous sengi, which is a member of the genus Rhychocyon or giant elephant-shrews of which there are 3 species worldwide. Despite their small size (400-500g) they are more closely related to elephants and aardvarks than other mammals.

Due to their elusive nature very little is known about sengi, with only one detailed study of their behaviour being conducted in 1979! Despite this they are classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as their numbers are declining. Such a decline is largely due to habitat loss, and on the mainland they are targets of the bush-meat trade. As more research is conducted into mammals within African forests, there is a lot more information about the ecology and biology of the sengi being discovered.

The main diet of the Black-and-rufous sengi is insects such as ants and beetles living in the dense leaf litter of the forest floor. To find them it uses its long unusual trunk like nose which has hairs used to sense movement and front legs to dig through the soil and leaves to unearth any potential prey. Once discovered it can use its claws to put the food in its mouth or use its long tongue to flick food into its mouth if the claws can’t reach it!

Black-and-rufous sengi find a partner and breed with them for life, together they will defend a territory from potential rivals. Along with building and maintaining around 10 nests from leaf litter, the nests are around a meter wide and 20cm tall on the forest floor. They provide ample shelter in the heat of the day and can hold the young sengi when the parents are foraging for food within the territory.

To escape predators such as birds of prey and cats the sengi is capable of running at around 25 kilometres per hour along a series of predetermined tracks, through tight patches of branches and forest. Before taking off at top speed it will freeze and observe the potential predator this is the best opportunity to get a good look at them.

To see a Black-and-rufous sengi on Mafia requires a bit of patience and luck, but is very rewarding when you finally catch a glimpse of one. It makes the 20 minute walk from camp into the heart of the forest early in the morning all seem worth it. They are often spotted just as you enter a clearing, with birds flying from the bush to the ground to feed on insects left behind by the sengi. It is then down to you to creep as close as you can before the sengi spots you freezes which can last a minute or two, and then takes off into the undergrowth in a black and ginger blur. Whilst the moment itself is brief it is one that you will want to repeat. As none are kept in captivity this is one of your few opportunities to see one of the most unique and unusual mammals in the world and contribute to some valuable research on this declining species.

By Tom Bruce – Terrestrial Research Officer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

Check out what volunteers in Tanzania are up to right now!


how long you think you want to stay, stay longer 

4 weeks in to my time on Mafia and I’m already seeing why so many stay longer. I recently extended by month long project by two weeks and I’m very happy I did. When I applied for the course I thought that a month would be more than enough time to get all I wanted out of my trip. But now I’m out here I see that there is so much to see and do that a months, for me, would not be enough. Although I was surprised how even after my first day I felt like I was fully a part of the team, even a month on you find yourself being more and more integrated in to life on Mafia.

Recently we have started playing football with the locals, who it’s safe to say are slightly better that us boys who play. However despite decreasing the standard of their game it has helped set up a great rapport with the locals and has made me personally feel like a member of the community. Like wise teaching at the school week to week has helped me get to the know the locals and has made me feel more at home, as the accumulation of the two activities means you get to know people around the village and it’s nice to bump in to people you know and who know you.

During my time I have loved the balance of time to relax and do your own thing and activities such as diving and school to keep you busy. It makes you days feel relaxed although you actually end up doing a lot. This is also great as it means you have time to go on activities you plan yourself e.g. football planned with the boys at school, motor bike trips to the top of the island, going to watch the BPL in the village with the Lads or just going to Mapenzi’s bar for a quick beer with the boys. You get a great balance of activities Frontier set up and time to do stuff yourself. And the longer you stay the more activities you find to do, which for me has made the experience the fun it is.

The diving itself is amazing and the more you do the more you see.  As someone who had done very little diving let alone conservation work, I was surprised how after learning the fish and accumulating dives I’ve been noticing more and more as I become ever more interested in reef life. After being face to face with moray eels, turtles, 6 ft grouper fish as big as me, a group of around 50 Barracuda and Whale Sharks, its not hard to see why many people go on to get jobs on the island.

One piece of advise I’d have for any future volunteers is; how long you think you want to stay, stay longer.     

By Harry Pearce Gould, Marine Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

Check out what volunteers in Tanzania are up to right now!