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Wildlife Management Studies and Public Health

Kenya & Tanzania

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The Impact of Land and Water Scarcity on Humans and Wildlife

Changing land-use practices and socioeconomic shifts occurring among the Maasai, Iraqw, and other ethnic groups are influencing the current conservation and rural development practices in the Maasai steppe of East Africa. The traditional nomadic, pastoral lifestyles of the Maasai and other groups maintained the integrity of open grasslands that serve as critical migration corridors and dispersal areas for wide-ranging wildlife species, such as elephant, wildebeest, giraffe, and zebra. Today, however, these changing lifestyles—from nomadic pastoralism to a more sedentary, agro-pastoralism—are posing a challenge to the long-term conservation of wildlife and other natural resources. Permanent homesteads, land sub-division, and extensive agriculture exert more pressure on the region’s natural resources, including water, productive grasslands, and wildlife populations.

  • Semester Programs

    Wildlife Management Studies

    The curriculum and research of the Wildlife Management Studies semester program in Tanzania focus on examining how changes in land-use and resource availability in the Maasai steppe ecosystems can be managed in such a way as to safeguard and promote biodiversity conservation while fostering the well-being of local communities.
  • Summer Programs

    Session I: Wildlife Management & Conservation


    Students in this East Africa study abroad program will be exposed to wildlife management practices and the complex issues involving sustainable wildlife conservation in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem of Tanzania. The course combines concepts and principles of ecology, natural resource management, and socioeconomics which are central to effective and sustainable wildlife conservation. During the course, students will develop skills to explore the ecology, social organization, and behavior of common African large mammals.

  • Session II: Techniques for Wildlife Field Research


    Students will be exposed to a suite of wildlife field techniques and methods routinely used to assess wildlife ecology and management policies and practices in East Africa with specific application to the Tanzania Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem conservation areas. The focus will be multidisciplinary and reflect the complex realities of balancing ecological, economic, and socio-cultural factors in sustainable wildlife conservation and management studies.

  • Session II: Field Practicum in Public Health & Environment


    This course will introduce students to rural health issues in Kenya, emphasizing the links between health and environment, and community-based health care and modern medicine. Students will gain experience in assessing and analyzing public health and environmental concerns in Maasai communities in partnership with local community-based health organizations.

How can changes in land use and resource availability in the Maasai Steppe of Kenya and Tanzania be managed in such a way as to foster the well-being of local communities whilst safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation?

The grasslands of southeastern Kenya (Amboseli ecosystem) and northeastern Tanzania (Maasai steppe) comprise extensive areas of land, which is home to the Maasai community. The area is characterized by a diversity of landscapes and habitats used by migratory wildlife species from Amboseli national park in Kenya, and Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks in Tanzania. Apart from a few scattered permanent rivers and springs, most of this region is largely arid or semi-arid, with mean annual rainfall in the range of 300-500 mm in southeastern Kenya and 1200mm in Arusha. The landscape has been used traditionally by the Maasai pastoral community to graze livestock on a communal basis, but this has rapidly changed in the last decades. There has been a steady shift in land use from purely pastoral to mixed agro-pastoral systems driven by multiple factors, including changing demographics, emerging economic opportunities, increasing tourism demands, and access to markets. Land use changes in the wildlife dispersal areas between protected areas compromise the ecological and environmental integrity and quality as habitats for a wide variety of wildlife species, especially large mammals like the African elephant, generally posing a serious challenge to conservation of biodiversity in this region. The current scenario in the region has generated some antagonism between the dual goals of local livelihoods and conservation.

The issues affecting and influencing wildlife conservation, local livelihoods and co-existence of humans and wildlife in the Maasai steppe of Kenya and Tanzania present a showcase for students and SFS faculty to explore the best strategy of promoting wildlife conservation whilst improving local livelihoods. Our research agendas for both the SFS Kenya and SFS Tanzania field centers focus on specific issues that have a bearing on the drivers of changes in these biodiversity rich landscapes, and their impacts on local livelihoods, wildlife and other critical natural resources. Both agendas link to this integrated research direction: How can changes in land use and resource availability in the Maasai Steppe of Kenya and Tanzania be managed in such a way as to foster the well-being of local communities whilst safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation?

Click here to read more about the research plan in Kenya
Click here to read more about the research plan in Tanzania

East Africa boasts SFS’ oldest Center, The SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies with a field station in Kenya and its newest in Tanzania. After almost 30 years in Kenya, SFS expanded its highly successful Wildlife Management program to Tanzania. Both locations offer students a special opportunity to see the intricate and complex connection between wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods. SFS faculty and staff are local people with intimate knowledge of the challenges of conservation in East Africa.

The Centers play an important role in the economy of the community, providing stable jobs to a large number of the local people, including critical support jobs such as cooks, drivers, guides, and guards. Additionally, students spend a lot of their free time visiting tourist attractions, markets, and local artisans.

During the summer sessions in both in wildlife amanagement and public health, the Center has hosted many Moi University students, providing a special opportunity for SFS students to live and learn alongside local students. SFS students learn a great deal about the local culture and engage in many community service projects in areas such as education, infrastructure improvement, and mentoring programs at schools and orphanages.

Students also enjoy soccer games, church services, and other events centered in the community. They participate in traditional Maasai cultural activities through song, dance, dress, and food.

In addition to engaging in the economic and cultural fabric of the local communities, SFS collaborates with local partners on the Five Year Research Plan (5YRP). The research objectives are carefully aligned with the goals of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the African Wildlife Foundation, African Conservation Center, World Wildlife Fund, East African Wildlife Society, the World Conservation Union, and the Tanzania National Parks Authority.

Additionally, local community members and government officials play an important role in the Center’s research. The 5YRP works to provide current, quality data for these stakeholders to determine better ways to monitor and manage habitat degradation and land-use changes while bolstering tourism and finding balance between economic and conservation goals in the predominantly Maasai regions of Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania.