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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
HOPPER MOUNTAIN NWR:  Project Leader Assists Tanzania With EcoTourism
Region 8, April 30, 2009
Hopper Mountain NWRC Project Leader Marc Weitzel discusses ecotourism opportunities with representatives from villages within the Greater Gombe Ecosystem. (photo: USFWS)
Hopper Mountain NWRC Project Leader Marc Weitzel discusses ecotourism opportunities with representatives from villages within the Greater Gombe Ecosystem. (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
A mother chimpanzee holds her infant in the Gombe National Park. (photo: Marc Weitzel, USFWS)
A mother chimpanzee holds her infant in the Gombe National Park. (photo: Marc Weitzel, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Michael Woodbridge, Hopper Mountain NWRC
In late April, Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) Project Leader Marc Weitzel led a Department of the Interior (DOI) multi-agency team to Tanzania’s Gombe National Park to provide assistance in developing ecotourism opportunities within the Park and the surrounding area (known as the Greater Gombe Ecosystem (GGE)).  Through DOI’s International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP) and funding assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), DOI has been working with Tanzania National Parks and the Wildlife Division since 1997 to promote sound management of the country’s natural resources.  The Gombe National Park assignment represented a new site in Tanzania for DOI-ITAP assistance.

In 1995, USAID and DOI established DOI-ITAP to provide capacity building in other countries using the diverse expertise of DOI bureaus. DOI-ITAP capacity building includes, but is not limited t on-site technical assistance, study tours, mentoring, train-the-trainers workshops, procurement, and training in operations and maintenance of equipment.

In addition to Weitzel, who functions as a collateral duty Senior Advisor to DOI-ITAP, the team included Lynn Nakata, a National Park Service Regional Interpretive Specialist, Lisa Duwall, a National Park Service Landscape Architect and Jeff McCusker, a Regional Outdoor Recreation Planner from the Bureau of Land Management. 

Gombe National Park is the original site of Jane Goodall’s monumental research with chimpanzees, so a primary on-site partner for the DOI-ITAP team was the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), in addition to the Tanzania National Park’s staff.  JGI is actively involved in ongoing chimpanzee research and community involvement efforts both within the Park and in the GGE. 

The Gombe National Park, the smallest in Tanzania’s national park system, is located in the northwest portion of the country, along the shores of Lake Tanganyika.   Although it is difficult to access, the Park is best known for its chimp trekking.

Besides looking at boosting compatible tourism opportunities within the Park and in villages within the GGE, the team also reviewed Park and JGI infrastructure (e.g., staff housing) and made recommendations for enhancing the facilities’ energy efficiency and visual impact.  The team also assessed management and visitor use trails and recommended standard construction and maintenance protocols.  A very successful two-day trails construction and maintenance workshop was conducted for Park, JGI, and other interested individuals.  The team met with leaders from villages within the GGE and assessed the possibility of creating a regional tourism trekking trail, as well as developing sustainable tourist infrastructure in the villages.  Villages in the area are interested in tapping into the tourism market.  However, the team cautioned that complete planning and community-wide buy-in are two early and essential components that must be addressed when contemplating activities that would draw in tourists.

The team left a host of well-received preliminary recommendations with JGI and the Tanzania National Parks.  JGI and the Parks staff are looking forward to working with DOI-ITAP on follow-up activities.

At the end of the assignment, in Dar es Salaam, the country’s major ocean port town, Weitzel completed planning meetings with various DOI-ITAP in-country partners, including the Wildlife Division, Africare, World Wildlife Fund, Friedkin Conservation Fund, and USAID.

Contact Info: Michael Woodbridge, 916-978-4445, michael_woodbridge@fws.gov