© Elephant at your doorstep at Ruaha River Lodge
Ruaha National Park in Tanzania is one of the new frontiers of African safari travel, a place where species overlap in their range and where new species are been identified still today.
Many travellers to Africa hear wonder at the species differentiation between East and Southern African animals - and where the actual defining border is between the two regions.
Where East Meets South
Where does east meet south? In tourism terms the answer to this question is relatively easy - and many tourism bodies have their own ideas. Generally though east Africa includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda and southern Africa includes the countries south of this.
In environmental terms however the answer has to be more defined due to physical attributes that need to be applied such as vegetation types and wildlife distribution. In recent years it has been agreed by environmentalists that Ruaha National Park is the crossover region between east and southern Africa.
It is in Ruaha that the east African Savannah meets the southern African miombo woodland and where species such as Grant's gazelle and lesser kudu reach their southern-most distribution.
With this east/south combination the herbivore numbers are high making Ruaha a haven for predators. There are strong populations of African wild dog, spotted and striped hyena and lions.
In Search of the Ruaha Red-billed Hornbill
The parks of southern Tanzania have not been as studied as other parts of Africa and for this reason new discoveries are been made regularly. The one discovery that was of special interest to me was the red-billed hornbill of the region.
As with many of the parks in southern Tanzania there is not much information in regards to the fauna and flora of the region. Studies of birds in recent times in Ruaha have revealed not only new species to the region but never before recorded species.
The red-billed hornbill is one of the most common birds throughout its range in Africa - instantly recognizable - and so it was in Ruaha, until a researcher saw something that was not quite right. Upon closer inspection - and with DNA evidence - the Ruaha red-billed hornbill, or Tanzania red-billed hornbill, was discovered to be a separate species.
Our attempts at getting up-close for a good look and photo were the subject of much debate in the vehicle during our first afternoon drive. After many failed attempts we finally succeeded - much to the relief of everyone in the vehicle.
Other New Species
There are other species in Ruaha that are now under consideration to determine whether they are separate species to those in other parts of Africa and it is believed that in time a number of new species will be identified.