Eastern Arc Mountains

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Eastern Arc mountains:
These are three mountain ranges in Eastern Tanzania, close enough to the Indian Ocean to receive high rainfall. Lush forests have clothed these ancient crystalline mountains ever since jungle vegetation million years ago, by climatic change and by the formation of the Great Rift Valley. And like isolated islands, each has developed its own endemic flora and fauna. Out of 2,000 species of plants so far identified in these mountains, some 25 to 30 percent are found nowhere else in the world. There are also many rare and unique reptiles, amphibians and insects.

The Usambara Mountains
in the north have patches of protected forest where one can walk in virgin areas and see wild African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha), as well as orchids, wild coffee bushes and buttressed trees. Though mammals are rare, there are many small creatures such as millipedes, frogs and chameleons that are unique to the Usambaras. It has been said that these forests constitute the richest biological community in Africa.

The Uluguru Mountains,
inland from the central coast, are particularly beautiful. Rising from the Morogoro Plain in a compact and rugged bunch, their steep slopes are covered with forest and full of interesting plants and birds.

The Uzungwa Mountains
are the source of the Kilombero River which flows through the Selous Game Reserve. There is a proposal to make about 1,200 square kilometres (480 square miles) of the mountains into a national park which would protect the forested habitat of much unique wildlife, including an unusual red colobus monkey (colobus badius gordonorum). In the Uzungwa-Kilombero area a new species of weaver bird, a new cisticola, and the rufous-winged sunbird were only discovered in the 1980s. Even a new subspecies of monkey, the Sanje crested mangabey was only described in 1981.

Around Lake Rukwa:
Rukwa Valley, Katavi National Park and Uwanda Game Reserve, located in south-west Tanzania, comprise a large area surrounding Lake Rukwa. Seasonal flooding and drying up of the lake creates a wide shore of grass that attracts large numbers of grazing animals, most notably topi, buffalos, elands and zebras. Elephants, hippos, Defassa waterbuck, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, southern reedbuck, impala, roan, greater kudu and giraffe are also evident. Perhaps the least common species is the puku (Kobus vardoni), whose closest relative is the Uganda kob (Adenota kob). The puku is a reddish brown colour, rather stocky and shaggy with thick lyrate horns. Around the lake and in the valley over 400 species of birds have been identified.

Occasionally Lake Rukwa dries up to the point where hippos, crocodiles and fish are confined to the few remaining muddy bogs. The coming of the first rain storms, usually in November, causes the grasses and sedges on the perimeter of the flood plain to sprout and fill many ponds and pools that lure waterfowl. A great British biologist, Vesey Fitzgerald, wrote: “there can be no more fascinating scene in the whole of Africa than the lawns of new grass in the (Rukwa) valley at this season”.

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