Zanzibar: Final Day!

posted in: International Conservation | 0
the team
Group picture of volunteers, the host, Reptile Sanctuary technician/volunteer coordinator and Conservation technician/volunteer coordinator

Yesterday I had a tour of the mangroves and some nearby villages to learn more about the culture of the area. Our guide said there are ten different types of mangroves that grow in the forest, and pointed out some to us. They all vary in morphology, leaf shape, fruit shape, and ideal soil conditions, making them easy to identify from the latter. The mangrove acts as a buffer zone between the ocean and the Jozani National Forest, which is where the endangered red colobus resides. There were lots of barnacles, fish, and crabs in the mangroves that use them for shelter and to house their offspring. Afterwards, we went for an ethnobotany tour of some more plants on the island. 

During the tour, I got to see my first red colobus! He was eating a lemon off a lemon tree! I recommend googling the species, as they have a brilliant red coat and silly Einstein-looking hair. I attached a picture of a parasitic tree that the tour guide called ‘constrict white fish,’ which swallows its host tree over time. This one’s victim is a mango tree.

Here are some plants that are used for their medicinal properties on the island: 

  • Mango tree: bark is good to use for a toothache, apply boiled water to lip. Wood is also used to create canoes and paddles
  • Lantana camara: grind and then apply to face when you have flu
  • Mango tree: bark is good to use for a toothache, apply boiled water to lip. Wood is also used to create canoes and paddles
  • Lantana camara: grind and then apply to face when you have flu
  • Stomach cleaner- sage-smelling plant given to children with lime and honey to drink to relieve stomach ache 
  • Cabuk- cotton tree used for mattresses; bark is good for asthma
  • Indian almond tree- common tree; Indian crow creates their nests here
  • Different ferns: help warm children, boil the leaves and wash body
  • African pick tree- best tree to be used for furniture
  • Casuarina- Pine tree used for houses
  • Wild date palm- used to make baskets, fruit eaten by humans and animals
  • Teak- used for furniture

We also got to learn how to create different items, like shredded coconut and rope out of coconut husks. We also got to watch someone harvest coconuts from a tree. They climb up the tree with nothing but a cloth loop around their feet, and then knock the coconuts down with a knife.

Afterwards, we rode bikes to the reptile sanctuary to finish doing some maintenance for the nature trail, removing all the dead branches and pruning away any dead matter in the way.

I learned so much on this trip to Zanzibar! I got to see first-hand how people learned to coexist with nature and how they successfully made a sustainable system. It was very interesting to see how local communities are now realizing the problems that come with sharing space with wildlife, and how they’re creating their own environmentally-friendly and holistic solutions.

It was also absolutely wonderful to get to meet some of the people from this community. I greatly admire their deep reverence for nature. The biggest takeaway I plan to bring back to my work at Zoo New England is the understanding that it is completely possible to create a successful and sustainable system between humans and wildlife. I hope to educate visitors on how they can live in harmony with nature and see all the benefits of this, whether it’s getting an uncommon pollinator to visit their garden because they planted some native species, or planting native fruit trees that both humans and local wildlife can consume. It’s all about making and inspiring those connections in others, just as I was inspired through this amazing conservation work abroad.


P.S. If you missed my first post about my work as a conservation volunteer in the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, check that out here!