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Elephants feed on trees such as acacia and mpingo in Tarangire National Park.

Mpingo in Tarangire

In Africa, we traveled through many areas that underscored for us once more the intricate balance between needs of the human population and those of the animals and plants of the natural world. These experiences precisely highlighted for us the necessity for replanting programs for mpingo. One such area was Tarangire National Park.

This park once had 60% tree cover but that has now been reduced to about 15% because of overuse by elephant herds. Historically, the elephants of Tarangire migrated north yearly to the Masai Mara area but that migration corridor has been cut off because of fencing and agricultural use of land.

Since they can no longer migrate, they now reside in Tarangire year round, at the expense of vegetation within that ecosystem. Many animals find the leaves of mpingo sweet and nutritious and elephants are no exception. We saw many trees that had obviously been topped off multiple times by hungry elephants. ABCP planting programs are involving many people in planting mpingo in places where they can be watched, cared for, and protected from hungry animals.

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A wood carver works behind shelves of mpingo and other carvings at the Muungano Makonde Carvers Market in Moshi. September 15, 2006.

Mwenge and Moshi Carvers

On our trip, we visited two carving cooperatives, one in Moshi and the world famous Mwenge Cooperative in Dar es Salaam. At both markets we were able to watch carvers at work, using only hand tools. Thinking of our shop at home, filled with the electric tools we use to execute our own woodwork, we were amazed at the skill, imagination, and hard work invested in their art.

We also visited the Cultural Heritage Center in Arusha, which has a magnificent display of carvings and is supporting the work of mpingo conservation. Their new facility, boldly designed as a drum and indigenous shield, will be completed soon. The center celebrates the cultural diversity of Tanzania and sells the local art of many of its peoples.

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ABCP Website maintained by James E. Harris, 2000.
Last revised 21 Jul 2010.