Ruaha, Tanzania

Ruaha, Tanzania Photo
©Kent Redford

Remote yet accessible, the Ruaha Landscape is dominated by the Great Ruaha River and is known for its elephants and carnivores, especially the African wild dog. Ruaha National Park lies at its heart. With its acacia and miombo woodlands, the park has particularly good terrain for seeing predators—including lions and African wild dogs—and their prey, such as sable and roan antelope, and the greater kudu, the park emblem. Wildlife corridors surrounding the park have become key conservation targets to ensure the animals can thrive and to maintain the park’s integrity.

Fast Facts

  • Ruaha is the second largest national park in Tanzania, after the Serengeti.
  • The Great Ruaha River rises in the Southern Highlands and winds north and east before merging with the Rufiji and continuing on to the Indian Ocean. The most economically important watercourse in Tanzania, it provides vital ecosystem services. Its hydroelectric dam at Mtera serves more than 70 percent of the country, and the river supplies 20 million people with water across the south and southwest.
  • Ruaha is a birders’ paradise, with more than 525 species recorded.


More than 85 percent of Ruaha’s rural communities depend entirely on the region’s natural resource base, and agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of their livelihoods. Misuse of water for irrigation and other purposes have lead the Great Ruaha River to dry up each year since 1993, although in 2009 it started to flow again. Woodlands are cleared for charcoal. Human-wildlife conflict is also a major issue. Other challenges include unmanaged fires, poaching, wildlife disease, and unmanaged grazing and land use activities.

WCS Responds

WCS played an important role in Ruaha’s designation as a national park in 1964. Today, the WCS Ruaha Landscape Program is helping to develop community-based initiatives through which local people can benefit from the landscape’s wildlife and natural resources, and thus have an interest in their long-term protection.

WCS has been working to set up Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), a relatively new type of protected area managed by local village associations. The Pawaga-Idodi WMA is now operational, successful, and profitable. Together with local villages, WCS is establishing two new WMAs, referred to by their acronyms WAGA and UMEMARUWA, in wildlife corridors in the landscape.

Other WCS activities in the landscape include providing clean water and sanitary facilities to select villages, monitoring the flow of the Great Ruaha River during the dry season, educating local communities about the significance of conservation and wildlife management, and identifying the role of trade-off in decision-making between conservation and development. We are engaged in human-elephant conflict studies, fire management, ecological monitoring, and corridor research. We also monitor the wild dogs and strive to ensure that Ruaha’s carnivore community remains healthy and can coexist with humans across the landscape.

From the Newsroom

Primate ParadiseJuly 16, 2013

Tanzania is home to 27 species of primates—a third of which are found nowhere else on Earth. A new conservation plan would create “Priority Primate Areas” to protect the baboons, colobus, and others, along with their habitats.

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