The School for Field Studies (SFS) Wildlife Management Studies semester program in Tanzania examines the drivers of habitat degradation and land-use change, as well as the implications for both local economic livelihoods and wildlife conservation. Students will learn about cultural perceptions, conservation issues, wildlife management and dispersal, and biodiversity conservation in Tanzania.
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.
Despite the seemingly negative trends of availability and quality of habitat and resources for wildlife and livestock on the Maasai steppe, there are many opportunities for effective conservation, natural resource management, and rural development. SFS’s 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 Center’s research is framed both by the needs of human communities and by wildlife conservation goals in the region. Our curriculum and research focus on how changes in land use and resource availability in the Maasai steppe ecosystems can be managed to foster the wellbeing 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.
FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
- Visits to cultural manyatta, an opportunity to glimpse Maasai and Iraqw cultures: musical ceremonies, demonstrations in fire-making, dances by Maasai morans (warriors), and lessons in spear-throwing
- Exploration of Lake Manyara National Park to learn large mammal identification, baboon ecology, and threats to wetlands from tourism, land-use changes, and local resource use
- Excursions to Tarangire National Park for exercises on animal counting, wildlife management, lion ecology and behavior, conservation models, and preservation of corridors
- Visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area to learn about integrated management, inclusion of indigenous communities in conservation and management of natural resources, animal identification, and the role of volcanism in species diversity
- Multi-day field expedition to Serengeti National Park to learn about large mammal ecology, diseases, and migrations
- Day trip to Burunge Wildlife Management Area to study community-based management of wildlife and understand how communities benefit from conservation of wildlife resources
- Develop field research skills including habitat assessment and mapping, species identification, research design, data collection, valuation methods, social surveys, wildlife census techniques, GIS, transect and patch sampling, animal behavior observations, geology, and soil identification
SAMPLE DIRECTED RESEARCH
- Local community strategies for coping with variation in water availability
- Assessment of attitudes and awareness on wildlife conservation among the Iraqw and the Maasai communities
- Influence of ecological and social factors on the distribution of elephants in Tanzania’s Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem
- 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
- Community service work in local schools, hospitals, orphanages, and with a local women’s group
- Visit and stay with Iraqw communities
- Visits to local markets and a neighboring homesteads for traditional celebrations, a lecture on culture and artifacts, and conducting interviews for research work