At first, we watched the Maasai sing and dance, and were soon invited to join in. We helped build a hut using cow dung as plaster, learned to start fires with only wood and grass, and tried our hands at spear throwing. It was the experience of a lifetime!
—Maddy Jackson, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Fall ‘15
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 Tanzania. It has also been the home of the Maasai, Iraqw, and other ethnic groups for centuries.
The availability and quality of habitat and resources for wildlife and livestock on the Maasai steppe are diminishing; however, there are many opportunities for effective conservation, natural resource management, and rural development. 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 or marauding wildlife, loss of livestock due to predation, and resource depletion and competition. Agricultural expansion, pollution, and climate disruption 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 socioeconomic and environmental policy, 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 community members from various ethnic backgrounds about challenges they face due to changing land uses, impact and adaptation to climate change, and increasing competition for natural resources.
- Multiday field expedition and camping trip to Serengeti National Park, studying large mammal ecology, wildlife migrations, and tourist behavior in the park
- Multiday 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
- Visits to cultural manyatta (settlements), an opportunity to glimpse Maasai and Iraqw cultures: traditional ceremonies, demonstrations of fire-making, and dances by Maasai morans (warriors)
- 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 tribe, a hunter-gatherer community of Lake Eyasi, and evaluate the ecological and sociocultural impacts of cultural tourism in Tanzania
- Visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area to learn about the role and challenges of multiple use conservation models, which include 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
- Take a 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
- 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, animal behavior observations, scientific writing and oral presentation
SAMPLE DIRECTED RESEARCH PROJECTS
- Uncover local community strategies for coping with variation in water availability
- Assess local attitudes and awareness about wildlife conservation among the Iraqw and Maasai communities
- Analyze the influence of ecological and social factors on the distribution of elephants
- Examine livelihood and socioeconomic indicators among wildlife-conserving communities
- Compare the effectiveness of wildlife conservation strategies between areas of differing protection levels
- Study the importance of habitat quality and heterogeneity on wildlife sanctuary viability
- Understand the role of government in human-wildlife conflict resolution
- Assess the impact of, and coping strategies for, 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 strategy. 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
- Presentations of research findings to community stakeholders