Tim Davenport is Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Tanzania. He was born in Manchester, northern England and received a BSc in zoology and a PhD in veterinary parasitology from the University of Leeds, UK. He has since lived and worked in four African countries, including Uganda where he worked for the Ugandan Forest Department, Makerere University and Uganda National Parks, and Cameroon where he ran conservation projects for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He has worked in over 80 African forests and been involved in the designation of new national parks and nature reserves on both sides of the continent. He has written scores of papers, reports and popular articles, and has helped to train over a hundred African scientists and conservationists.
It is in Tanzania, however, and especially the Southern Highlands, where Tim has had the most recent impact.He moved to Tanzania for WCS in 1999, initially as technical advisor for a conservation project around Lake Rukwa. After a year, however, the funding collapsed, and WCS gave him a budget of $5,000 and six months to “develop something new” in the area. Hence the Southern Highlands Conservation Programme (SHCP) was born, and almost nine years later it has a permanent staff of 30 Tanzanians and a string of research and conservation successes, putting Tanzania’s Southern Highlands, Mt Rungwe, Kitulo Plateau and Mbizi forests all firmly on the conservation map.
Tim designed the SHCP around three main conservation themes, namely research, protected area management, and community conservation. In all SHCP work, Tim works with his wife, Daniela De Luca, a very accomplished field biologist. One of the first achievements of the SHCP was the investigation and demonstration of the illegal and fast-growing trade in wild orchids across southern Tanzania. This received much international attention and led to the Kitulo Plateau being known outside the area for the first time. Following on from this, Tim played a significant role working with senior government in the gazettement of Kitulo as a National Park, the first park in tropical Africa designated primarily for plants.
In terms of research, Tim has led the first biodiversity inventories (all plants, all vertebrates and 3 invertebrate groups) of Mt Rungwe and the adjacent Kitulo. During this work, a number of new species to science were discovered including a butterfly, dragonfly, moth, two frogs, a lizard, a chameleon, a bushbaby and the Kipunji, Africa’s first new species of monkey for 23 years. A year later, Tim led the description of the Kipunji in the journal Science as Rungwecebus, the continent's first new genus of monkey for 83 years. Other biodiversity surveys have included Mporoto, Mbizi , Tembwa, Loazi, Ntantwa and Ndukunduku forests across southwestern Tanzania. The research has significantly raised the profile of neglected areas and species. It has also helped redefine the boundaries of the Eastern Arc Biodiversity Hotspot and rethink how we assess biogeography and its conservation implications.
During WCS’s first national census of chimpanzees in Tanzania, Tim and his team discovered an unknown chimpanzee population in southern Tanganyika. They continue to research this subpopulation, and the biodiversity and human impacts in the area. They have also carried out the first census, and behavioural and ecological studies of the Kipunji and the first census and conservation analysis of the Ufipa Red Colobus and Abbott’s duiker. The SHCP also continues to carry out socio-economic and ethnobotanical studies and a range of priority research initiatives.
Community conservation work focuses on education. The SHCP has instituted environmental education (and put conservation into the school curriculum) across southwest Tanzania. The education program now reaches many tens of thousands of people, and environment committees, working groups, wildlife clubs and natural resource fora have been set up across the region. Since 2001, Tim has placed much emphasis on tree planting, and the SHCP has raised and planted almost a third of a million trees in southwest Tanzania, the vast majority of them being indigenous forest species. The SHCP has now set up active indigenous tree nurseries in dozens of schools and government offices across the southwest of the country.
In terms of protected areas, Tim and his team have been actively involved with Kitulo as well as Mt Rungwe, Mbizi and other forest reserves, all of which had been previously neglected for decades. Having instigated Kitulo, Tim subsequently convinced National Parks to include the adjacent forest reserves of Livingstone and Numbe in the new Park. Given the subsequent discovery of the kipunji this proved to be extremely important. The SHCP played a key role in writing the first Kitulo National Park Management Plan with Tanzania National Parks, and now runs the Kitulo National Park Ecology and Monitoring unit. Similar steps are being taken with the management of Mt Rungwe and Mbizi.
Alongside the work of the SHCP, Tim has also been involved in other significant conservation projects. For example, he led the joint WCS / Tanzanian Government expedition to collect Kihansi Spray Toads for ex-situ breeding in the US. Along with Daniela De Luca, he designed and carried out the first ever national survey of dugongs, raising awareness of this threatened species in Tanzania for the first time. He helped set up a successful project in southern Malawi for the design of an ecological monitoring programme on Mt Mulanje. This built on his experience designing the monitoring programme for Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda in the mid-1990’s.
Tim has a keen interest in sponsoring the unfashionable. He has keenly promoted the conservation of invertebrates, orchids and wildflowers, hard-edge conservation issues and indigenous tree planting, as well as Baka pygmy hunting rights. He has hired poachers as educators, introduced conservation into school curricula, investigated the increasingly destructive pet trade, and funded alternative fuel research, all before they became mainstream issues. In September 2006, Tim was appointed as the WCS Country Director in Tanzania. In addition to the SHCP, Tim now manages conservation projects in the Tarangire-Simanjiro Ecosystem in northern Tanzania, the Ruaha Landscape in central Tanzania, the coastal forests of Zanzibar, as well as research projects in the Serengeti, the southern Tanganyika lakeshore forests and the Eastern Arc Mountains. His photographs have been widely published and he is currently working on a book about Tanzania’s mountains and their natural history.