Zanzibar School Trip Country Profile

Zanzibar

Country Profile

Zanzibar is located 36km off mainland Tanzania, and it officially refers an archipelago that includes Unguja (Zanzibar Island), Pemba Island, and 50 smaller islands.

Over centuries, Zanzibar has attracted Sumerians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Europeans, Chinese and Malays to its vibrant trading markets. In 1832, the Sultan of Oman established the island as the centre for the spice trades for the whole of East Africa. Great explorers, including Burton, Livingstone, and Speke, started their expeditions from here.

In 1964 the islands joined Tanganyika to form the new republic of Tanzania. As a semi-autonomous region, Zanzibar has its own parliament and president. The inhabitants speak a pure form of Swahili, and many believe Zanzibar is the birthplace of this language.

Geography and Environment

The marine biodiversity in the Zanzibar Archipelago is world-famous. Coral reefs here are among the most diverse and productive communities on Earth. Each habitat supports hundreds of coral and reef fish species. Chumbe Island, just over 0.4 km², has at least 432 reef fish species. There are five species of marine turtle, three of which are endangered, and the other two critically endangered.

The islands' forests form a vital part of the Eastern Arc and Coastal Forest of East Africa - one of the world's 25 most important biodiversity hotspots. Different forests support many endemic and critically endangered wildlife species - the red colobus monkey (one of Africa's rarest primates), Ader's duiker (a very rare antelope), the Pemba flying fox, and the giant coconut crab (the world's largest land crab), which has evolved to live on land.

Despite their biodiversity and climate-regulating values, coral reefs and forests in the Zanzibar archipelago are under serious threat. Over-fishing, destructive fishing practices, pollution and sedimentation have led to a decline of fish landings and increased bio-physical destruction of formerly pristine reefs. Forests are disappearing due to local people's dependence on wood for fuel, and clearing land for agricultural fields, which is often exacerbated by insecure land tenure.

Recently, environmental education and incentives for sustainable resource management have been introduced. Through the trip's activities, Global Action are delighted to be supporting four marine and forest reserves, established to provide local income-earning opportunities while promoting conservation and sustainable use of resources.

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