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|Pemba Islandís Ngezi-Vumavimbi Nature Forest Reserve - Tanzania|
From Mozambique, through Tanzania and Kenya, to southern Somalia, East Africa was once home to some extensive areas of coastal forest. This includes its islands such as Pemba, of which the most significant remnant is the approximately 20 km2 Ngezi-Vumavimbi Nature Forest Reserve. Though relatively small, this area has a diverse range of ecosystems which include:
- tropical moist forest
In addition, the Ngezi-Vumawimbi Forest has many diverse microhabitats that are suitable for birds such as the Hadada Ibis, sun birds, kingfishers, and the Long Hornbill.
The coastal forests of East Africa have all been designated by Conservational International as a biodiversity hotspot. Their degree of variation, endemism and vulnerability are the key reasons for this.
Ngezi is a prime example of this variation and endemism. Of 25 species if reptile found here 7 (more than a quarter) are found nowhere else. There are also two endemic species of mammal and six endemic birds including the Vulnerable Pemba scops-owl (Otus pembaensis) and the Vulnerable Pemba green-pigeon (Treron pembaensis).
A recent survey by the international charity, Flora and Fauna International (FFI), found 355 species of plant in the forest, of which 74 were previously unrecorded and 9 were new to science. Endemic plants in the forest include the Mpapindi Palm (Chrysulidocarpus pembanus).
The Pemba Flying Fox
Of particular interest to Flora and Fauna International (www.fauna-flora.org ) is the critically endangered Pemba Flying Fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi) – a species known for its bright chestnut-orange fur. 95% of this species are found on Pemba, but populations have suffered considerably over time due to habitat destruction and traditional hunting of the bat for food.
Conservation of the Ngezi Forest
Whilst from the air Pemba appears as a green and verdant island, its native forests have been reduced to 5% of their original extent. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) summarises the main pressures of deforestation on the islands as follows:
- agricultural encroachment
CEPF is one of the main funders for Fauna and Flora International (FFI), who are one of the most active international charities working on the island. Focusing firstly on the Pemba Flying Fox, over the past twelve years FFI has helped to reverse the decline in population through community education, the establishment of environmental clubs to protect roosts close to villages, setting up meetings with hunters and key decision makers, and ongoing monitoring programme of bat populations. Entry fees we pay to take you into the Ngezi forest help to provide Pembaris with a benefit for preserving the forest and its bat inhabitants.
We strongly recommend a visit to the Ngezi Forest as part of a Tanzanian wildlife holiday or coastal and dive safari to Pemba.
Photographs kindly provided by Ralph Pannell