From East to West, the
open ocean with coral reefs changes to brackish water
ecosystems characterized by mangrove forests, salt pans
and bare saline areas. Further inland, the Wami river is
the most important fresh water source besides numerous
temporary rivers and dams. The marine extension of the
park includes the Mafui sandbanks, whose colourful coral
reefs are important breeding sites for many fish
species. At low tide the sea retreats up to 100 meters
and forms a convenient passage for local people and wild
animals. These beaches are the only place North of Dar es Salaam
where sea turtles still come to lay their eggs. The most
common species is the Green Turtle , the largest of the
hard-shelled sea turtles. Besides nest thieves on the
beach, turtles are particularly threatened by commercial
fisheries and water pollution.
Evergreen mangrove trees
grow in the transitional zone, just above the mean sea
water level. These salt tolerant tidal forests provide a
resting and feeding place for many bird species, bats,
monkeys, hippos and reptiles. Numerous species of fish
or prawns also lay their eggs in these protected
habitats. The high demand for the resistant mangrove
wood leads to overexploitation, making the protection of
these forests even more important. In Saadani National
Park, large mangrove forests grow along the Wami River.
This is also the place where large groups of hippos
(Kiboko) can be observed. At night they come ashore and
wander inland, grazing up to 40 kg of grass per animal.
Nile crocodiles ( mamba) also live here, some of them
reaching 5 meters. The Wami River is also a good place
for watching birds such as kingfishers, fish eagles and
many species of wading birds.
The poorly known coastal forests are characterized by a
high biodiversity with many plants occurring only in
these areas (endemics). Forests play an important role
in protecting the soil against erosion and thus regulate
the water cycle. They are especially vulnerable to
illegal logging, charcoal production and farming
expansion. Besides the two large forests of Zaraninge
and Kwamsisi, many of the smaller patches of forest and
shrubs represent important habitats for animals.
In Saadani, elephants (tembo or ndovu) are relatively
shy and usually hide during the day in woody parts of
the Park. Leopards (chui) also occur in dense bush and
thickets. Seldom seen, these animals are mainly
nocturnal and can live in close proximity to humans.
Other showy animals living mostly in woody areas are the
Greater kudu and smaller antelopes such as Suni and
Duiker . The crowns of the trees are inhabited by
Colobus monkeys ( mbega) which, unlike most other
monkeys, subsist mainly on leaves, strictly nocturnal
bush babies ( komba), as well as many fruit-eating bird
species, insects and butterflies.
The humid savanna of Saadani National Park can be
divided into three easily distinguishable types: tall
grass savanna, with herbaceous cover growing up to 2 m
and scattered palm trees; short grass grazing lands
mostly situated on former sisal plantations; and black
cotton plains, where the clayey soil creates particular
harsh conditions. Moreover different degrees of tree
cover can be distinguished. Typical for Saadani is
Acacia zanzibarica with its long spines, which covers
large areas of the park.
Fire plays an important role in these habitats in
keeping them open. A careful fire management is
therefore indispensable, which means controlled burning
of selected areas. The other important factor regulating
vegetation development in savannas are the herbivores.
They can roughly be separated into two main groups
depending on their feeding habits: browsers (leaf
eaters) and grazers (grass eaters).
Typical inhabitants of the tall grass savannas are the
buffalo (nyati or mbogo), which weigh up to 850 kg.
Several herds of Liechtensteinís hartebeests (kongoni)
can be observed grazing in Saadani National Park. The
common waterbucks occur all over the Park area.
Weighting up to 270 kg these grazers can be easily
recognised by the white ring around their tails. The
density of Bohor reedbucks is especially high in Saadani
National Park, although this medium-sized antelope
(45 kg) might be difficult to spot in tall grass where
they lay down for shelter. Warthogs (ngiri) are also
omnipresent and even come into Saadani village. As most
of the villagers are Muslim and avoid pork, they have
learned that they will not be harmed.
Saadani National Park is
also known for its numerous giraffes (twiga), the
national symbol of Tanzania and tallest animal in the
world. Their tongues have special callus plates which
make them particularly well adapted to browse on spiny
Large herds of White-bearded wildebeests (nyumbu) also
graze in the short grass savannas. They were released in
the area in the 1970ís when the Game reserveís zoo, for
which they were initially imported from northern
Tanzania, was closed. Other introduced species are
Plains zebra (punda milia) and Eland .
The Lion (simba), the largest of the African carnivores,
is also found in Saadani, although it is rarely seen. At
night you may also hear the hyenas (fisi) and encounter
genets , porcupines and civets . Other species which can
be observed within the perimeter of the Park are
Bushbucks , Bushpigs , Yellow baboon (nyani) or Vervet
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