Tanzania National Natural History Museum

Above: Natural History Museum with Meru Mountain in the Background. Photo by Aloyce Mwambwiga.

Established in 1987, the National Natural History Museum is the primary museum of the seven natural history museums in Tanzania. The Museum is situated in Arusha town, the main tourist hub in East Africa. It is housed in the Boma, a former German colonial military compound which was built in 1900s. The core task of the museum is twofold; the collection and preservation of information on natural heritage, and the education and dissemination of such information through exhibitions and publications.

Botanical garden at entrance to museum
PHOTOGRAPH BY Aloyce Mwambwiga

There is a small botanical garden with a variety of tree species local to the Arusha region. The gardens are surrounded by live animals including tortoise, birds, and stingless bees with signs demonstrating their ecological importance. The museum collection comprises of birds’ specimens, stuffed animal, an Entomology exhibition, and Archaeological collections mainly from Oldupai Gorge and Laetoli, Paleontological Laboratory. A series of collections were discovered in different beds/strata of the gorge by scientists and researchers.

Water Hyacinth
PHOTOGRAPH BY Aloyce Mwambwiga
Tilapia from a fresh water pond on the grounds
PHOTOGRAPH BY Aloyce Mwambwiga

Within the grounds of the museum’s mini botanical garden, lies a small pond full of fresh water fish. Tilapia is one of the main ways that the republic of Tanzania invested in aquaculture since the mid-20th century. Little production in this realm has happened across the country because of various factors, including drought and other environmental difficulties. While drought is still an issue today in some areas, this does not stop our Museum staff from continuing to push the market forward. People from neighboring businesses gathers around to learn how to raise fish and buy some fish eggs ‘to be used for fish farming’. Stop by the museum soon to enjoy our pond, our leading innovation in Arusha, and our new finned family members!

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Other Attractions

Learn to paint at the museum
PHOTOGRAPH BY Aloyce Mwambwiga

The African lion is a massive, tawny colored predator of the cat family. On average, the lion is the tallest of the big cats. An adult male African lion is over 400 pounds and 4 feet tall at the shoulder. Lions lifespan mostly depends on its habitat. The average lifespan of a lion ranges between 14 to 15 years. While enclosed, a lion can live between 15 to 20 years.

Stuffed animals from Tanzania National Parks displayed in the museum.
PHOTOGRAPH BY Aloyce Mwambwiga

This unique specimen is housed in the Museum. In 1995, a 1.8 million year old hominid maxilla with complete dentition (OH 65) was excavated from Bed I in the western part of Oldupai Gorge. The molar crowns are small relative to the long flaring roots and the root of the canine is very long and straight. The broad maxilla with wide U-shaped palate and the form of the tooth roots closely match those of KNM-ER 1470 which, in its parietal size and morphology, matches the type specimen of Homo habilis, OH 7. Thus, OH 65 and KNM-ER 1470 group with OH 7 as representatives of H. habilis while some other Oldupai specimens (Clarke, 2012).

Maxilla (OH 65, Discovered in 1995 by Robert J. Blumenschine et al.
PHOTOGRAPH BY Aloyce Mwambwiga

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Aloyce Mwambwiga

Aloyce Mwambwiga is a PhD student studying Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Calgary, Canada. His research interest is on the application of Geographic Information System (GIS) in understanding and classifying lithics: focusing on plant residue plotting and analysis to aid in the identification of their probable functions at Oldupai Gorge, Tanzania. He also works as a curator of the National Natural History Museum of Tanzania.

Email: aloyce.mwambwiga@ucalgary.ca