Reconstructing historical distribution of large mammals and their habitat to inform rewilding and restoration in central Tanzania
In the anthropogenic landscapes where historically wildlife existed, there can be a potential for rewilding to reverse extinction. However, there is limited literature providing approaches to achieving successful rewilding. The current study aimed at providing empirical based methodological procedures for the successful rewilding of large mammals at the University of Dodoma (UDOM) and nearby degraded landscapes by assessing past and current vegetation and wild mammals’ occurrence and soil fertility. The past occurrence of mega-herbivores and their habitat was assessed using literature survey, past vegetation maps and key-informant interviews. The EBSCOhost-database and Google Scholar search-engine were used for literature searching. A field survey was conducted at UDOM, one of the remaining habitat patches in central areas of Dodoma, Tanzania to examine present plant diversity, soil nutrients and seedbank status. The results indicated that historically, the study area was Savanna woodland but later anthropogenic activities had resulted in Land-Use Land-Cover Changes (LULCC) that led to wild animals’ extirpation leaving remnants in the surrounding protected areas. While the key informant interviews verified the local loss of mega-herbivores, data collected at UDOM in 2022 indicated vegetation transformation to Dichrostachys cinerea dominated bushland. The study further revealed moderate soil fertility with relatively high seedbank. These results indicated that the study area occupied specular wild-mammal populations that were later extirpated leaving the area transformed into bushland. For rewilding programmes, among other things, the information generated from this study is essential and should be used to guide the long-term success of re-introduction at UDOM and its adjacent areas with/without modification.