ProjectsAfricaTanzaniaMahale Ecosystem Management Project
Mahale Ecosystem Management Project

Conservation of the Mahale ecosystem’s outstanding tropical forest biodiversity and the livelihood and environmental security of communities mutually strengthened.


Status: National Park (1985 ) IUCN Category II.
Geographical Location: On Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, 120 km south of Kigoma; 6°10'S, 29°50'E
Size: Mahale Mountains National Park 1613 sqrt km


The Mahale Mountains run in a 50 km chain parallel to Lake Tanganyika, rising steeply from an altitude of 780m asl from the lake’s waters and shores. A mosaic of lowland evergreen Kasoge forest covers these slopes, changing to mountain forest, grassland and bamboo brush on the mountain ridge and Mount Nkungwe at 2,462m. Miombo woodland in the eastern slopes and north and south of the Kasoge forest cover 75% of the park and extends across a remote and relatively inaccessible area eastwards to the Game Reserve and eventually Katavi National Park. Mahale Mountains National Park at the shores of Lake Tanganjika in northwestern Tanzania is a fascinating area with a diverse flora and fauna and the largest chimpanzee population on earth.

Mahale for many years has been protected by its extremely remote location in western Tanzania, and even today, there is still no road access to the area. The area was first brought to international attention when researchers from Kyoto University of Japan started a long-term project on the chimpanzees in 1965. Their efforts led to the gazettement of the National Park in 1985. FZS has supported the development of this park since the early 1990s, concentrating on infrastructure and equipment. Tourism has grown through this period, focused on the chimpanzee population.

In 2003, FZS, in partnership with TANAPA, were awarded European Union funds for 5 years, implementing the ecosystem management approach to engage local communities in active conservation in the greater Mahale Ecosystem as well as the National Park, which contains several areas of important forest habitat and chimp populations. The remoteness of this area has protected Mahale from substantial human pressure up to now, but this is changing, with improved road connections, immigration from more degraded areas and human population growth. There had also been immigration of refugees from Congo, although some more recent arrivals are now being repatriated. The project has the unusual and fortunate position to be working with communities before the conservation threats have been realised in full. It is hoped through the project’s ecosystem management planning activities connectivity and conservation of these areas can be enhanced.

  • Improvement of park´s infrastucture and supplying of equipment for park protection
  • Development and implementation of a General Management Plan for Mahale Mountains National Park
  • Development and implementation of Mahale Ecosystem Management Plan
  • Carrying out of ecological research and assessment of wider Mahale ecosystem
  • Support tourism development and management
  • Training on environmental education
  • Supporting community based natural resource management and conservation-compatible development activities

Kathryn Doody, Zoe Balmforth, Magnus Mosha


Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA)
European Union (EU)
Wildlife Division
District and Village Authorities