I’ll never forget the nights my peers and I spent under the stars in Serengeti National Park, surrounded by the observant eyes of spotted hyenas, hungry Cape Buffalo foraging outside our tents, and parts of the great wildebeest migration calling from the hills nearby.
—April Nicole Sperfslage, The Pennsylvania State University, Fall ‘14
Northern Tanzania is a hub of wildlife tourism. Home to world-famous national parks such as Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this remarkably scenic area is the center of tourism in East Africa. It has also been the home of the Maasai, Iraqw, and other groups for centuries.
SFS’ field station is surrounded by wildlife using diverse migration corridors and seasonal dispersal areas. The Maasai, and now settlers from other ethnic communities, depend on these same areas as communal grazing grounds for livestock and for growing food. As a result, they often face economic hardship due to crop damage from migrating wildlife, loss of livestock, and resource depletion and competition. Agricultural expansion, pollution, and climate change threaten the already strained water supply and the health of people, livestock, and wildlife alike.
The program explores the human elements of these the complex conservation issues. Our curriculum and research focus on how changes in land use and resource availability in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem can be managed to foster the well-being of local communities while safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation. Students learn about the socioeconomic, policy, and environmental drivers and implications of demographic change and land reform for wildlife conservation and rural development. Students hear lectures by park wardens, wildlife veterinarians, and field researchers. They also interview Maasai community members about challenges they face by the rapid loss of natural resources.
- Multi-day field expedition and camping trip to Serengeti National Park, studying large mammal ecology, wildlife migrations, and tourist behavior in the park
- During game drives and field activities, observe elephants, lions, giraffes, cheetahs, jaguars, hyenas, rhinoceroses, and even African wild dogs, one of the most endangered mammals in the world
- Multi-day trip to Tarangire National Park and surrounding areas for field exercises on wildlife population counting, lion ecology and behavior, conservation models, and human-wildlife conflicts
- Visit cultural manyatta (settlements), an opportunity to glimpse Maasai and Iraqw cultures: traditional ceremonies, demonstrations of fire-making, and dances by Maasai morans (warriors)
FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
- Explore Lake Manyara National Park to study techniques for identification of large African mammals, baboon ecology, and threats to wetlands from tourism, land-use changes, and local resource use
- Meet the Hadzabe foragers of Lake Eyasi and evaluate the ecological and sociocultural impacts of cultural tourism in Tanzania
- Visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area to learn about inclusion of communities in conservation and management of natural resources
- Attend lectures by park rangers, government representatives, village elders, and scientists from local research organizations on a range of topics in wildlife conservation and management
- Day trip to Burunge Wildlife Management Area to study the benefits and challenges of community-based management of wildlife
- Explore Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world, learning about human evolution and the geologic history of the region
- Practice a variety of exercises in wildlife conservation and management: observing predator-prey interactions; surveying bird and ungulate populations; evaluating species’ habitat preferences and use; and assessing tourists’ wildlife viewing patterns.
- Develop field research skills including habitat assessment and mapping, species identification, research design, data collection, natural resource valuation methods, social surveys, wildlife census techniques, GIS, transect and patch sampling, and animal behavior observations, scientific writing and oral presentation
SAMPLE DIRECTED RESEARCH PROJECTS
- Local community strategies for coping with variation in water availability
- Assessment of attitudes and awareness about wildlife conservation among the Iraqw and Maasai communities
- Influence of ecological and social factors on the distribution of elephants
- Livelihoods and socioeconomic indicators among wildlife-conserving communities
- Effectiveness of wildlife conservation strategies between areas of differing protection levels
- Importance of habitat quality and heterogeneity on wildlife sanctuary viability
- The role of government in human-wildlife conflict resolution
- Humans’ vulnerabilities and responses to climate change in rural communities
GET INVOLVED WITH THE COMMUNITY
Students at the Center for Wildlife Management Studies in Tanzania have a special opportunity to see the intricate and complex connection between wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods. SFS faculty and staff have intimate knowledge of the challenges of conservation in Tanzania.
Local community members and government officials play an important role in guiding the Center’s research. With the results of our research, we offer data and recommendations to inform decision makers. SFS works collaboratively with our stakeholders to help monitor and manage habitat degradation and land-use changes while bolstering tourism and finding balance between economic and conservation goals.
Students often enjoy soccer games, church services, and other events with community members. Additionally, students participate in community volunteer projects and social activities such as:
- Visits to local markets and neighboring homesteads for traditional celebrations; a lecture on culture and artifacts; and conducting interviews for research work
- A visit and stay with Iraqw communities
- Community service work in local schools and orphanages
- Presentations of research findings to community stakeholders