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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

In recent years, there has been a steady shift in land use from purely pastoral to mixed agropastoral systems in the Maasai group ranches that occupy the land between Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks in southern Kenya. This land-use change is driven by various socioeconomic, cultural, and political factors. The integrity and quality of dispersal habitats of a wide variety of wildlife species, which historically have moved across the group ranches while migrating between the parks, is severely compromised. Such dispersal hindrances are turning protected areas such as Amboseli National Park into ecological islands that cannot sustain natural ecological processes or maintain the density and diversity of wildlife species that typically use these areas for dry season grazing. Land scarcity and water issues not only impact wildlife populations in the area, but human populations as well. Massai ranch leaders noted recently an increase in health problems among the Maasai, many of which can be linked to poor water quality.

  • Semester Programs

    Wildlife Management Studies

    Kenya & Tanzania

    There are many opportunities for effective conservation, natural resource management, and rural development, despite the seemingly negative availability and quality of habitat and resources for wildlife and livestock on the Maasai steppe. The diverse habitat surrounding the SFS camps is used by wildlife as migration corridors among protected areas. The curriculum and research of this program focus on determining how changes in land-use and resource availability in the Maasai steppe ecosystems can be managed in such a way as to foster the well-being of local communities while safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation.

  • 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 socio-economics 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 Amboseli ecosystem be managed in such a way to foster the well-being of local communities whilst safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation?

In its second consecutive cycle of the Five Year Research Plan, The SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies seeks to help the Kenya Wildlife Service, group ranch communities and other agencies promote the cohabitation of wildlife and people, and wildlife conservation, in a critical ecosystem in the Amboseli-Tsavo region where the Kilimanjaro Bush Camp (KBC) is located. The current situation in this region is characterized by shifting land use patterns and socio-economic changes occurring in the Maasai and other human populations, which is increasing wildlife and human competition for scarce resources. The conflicts that result have ecological, economic and social costs.

On a longer term basis, the successful integration of the local community will ensure the sustainability of wildlife conservation as well as the improvement in the wellbeing of the local inhabitants.        


Land reform, which can broadly be divided up into land tenure reform and land redistribution, has a great deal of influence on the way people relate to and use natural resources. The land question has manifested itself in many ways, including fragmentation, breakdown in land administration, disparities in land ownership, and poverty.

The traditional nomadic pastoral lifestyle of the Maasai, a sound ecological practice that helped rangelands to maintain their integrity, has dramatically changed in the recent past to a more sedentary agro-pastoral lifestyle. This lifestyle, characterized by more permanent homesteads, compounds the pressure exerted on the rangelands. The introduction of group ranches as the preferred form of land tenure regime in Maasailand in the late 1960s failed to resolve these problems, and in the 1990s the process of sub-division was initiated. The result is an increase in human-wildlife conflict, human-human conflict, and a reduction in wildlife dispersal areas.

Water is also a critical resource limiting wildlife distribution and plant productivity in the Amboseli Ecosystem. There is a scarcity of water in this region because the Amboseli area lies in the rain shadow of the Kilimanjaro Mountain. To compound the problem, Kilimanjaro’s snowcap has receded so much that fewer rivers emerge today from underground springs. Since water is a limiting resource in the ecosystem, such areas are under pressure for degradation due to over-exploitation from people home use, wildlife, livestock and farming activities.

There is a need to understand the socio-economic, political, and environmental drivers and implications of land reform for wildlife conservation and rural livelihood in a changing landscape. There is also critical need to establish the reliable water points, securing them and protecting water sources along rivers and springs so as to meet current and future needs without degradation and over-utilization.


The Center's research agenda will focus on four core thematic components that are essential to developing a well-informed answer to the main research question: How can changes in land use and resource availability in the Amboseli ecosystem be managed in such a way as to foster the wellbeing of local communities whilst safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation? Associated with each component is a set of key research questions. The thematic research components of this research plan are:

1. Assessment of water resources, watershed degradation, and impacts;
2. Impacts of land reform on group ranch demographics, land use, and wildlife conservation;
3. Wildlife and range conditions; and
4. Communities and tourism.

Based on these issues, the Center's research will include studies of the demographics of human populations, land tenure and land use changes, human and wildlife competition and conflict, and resource utilization linked to human activities. Other issues related to land use and socioeconomic changes include encroachment on protected areas, and intensified conflict and competition problems in protected areas and within the dispersal areas between them. Our research will examine the role of protected areas in wildlife conservation, people’s perception of park benefits and conservation, tourism and ecotourism development and benefits, and human-wildlife conflicts. Managing agencies and community groups require sufficient information about wildlife and habitat ecology to maximize their effectiveness in developing and implementing strategies for wildlife conservation. Therefore, we will cover range resource conditions and trends, habitat loss and quality, range resource utilization, spatial relations and corridors, ecotourism impacts on wildlife, and resource dynamics.


By implementing the findings from this body of research, it is hoped that the local community will develop a positive attitude towards wildlife and the region’s natural resources. This in turn may encourage the adoption of livelihood strategies that are compatible with wildlife conservation within the entire Amboseli region. On a longer term basis, the successful integration of the local community will ensure the sustainability of wildlife conservation as well as the improvement in the wellbeing of the local inhabitants. Stakeholders, clients and other beneficiaries in this research agenda include the Maasai community living in the four Group Ranches between Amboseli, Tsavo West and Chyulu Hills National Parks; the Kenya Wildlife Service; conservation agencies operating in Loitokikot District; and relevant Government Ministries.


* Indicates SFS student, ^ indicates SFS intern or SAM

Jones, B. T. B., M. M. Okello, and B. E. L. Wishitemi. 2005. Pastoralists, conservation and livelihoods in East and Southern Africa: Reconciling continuity and change through the protected landscape approach. Pages 107-118 in J. Brown, N. Mitchell, and M. Beresford, eds. The Protected Landscape Approach: Linking Nature, Culture, and Community. IUCN and UK Countryside Agency.

Kiffner, C., Ndibalema, V., & Kioko, J. 2012. Leopard (Panthera pardus) aggregation and interactions with Olive baboons (Papio anubis) in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology, early online, DOI 10.1111/aje.12002.

Kioko J.M. and S.O. Seno. 2011. Elephant corridor use and threats in the eastern range of Amboseli elephants, Kenya. Pachyderm 49: 70-78.

Kioko J.M., Kiringe J.W., and G. Wahungu. 2010. Youth's knowledge, attitudes and practices in wildlife and environmental conservation in Maasailand, Kenya. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 27: 91-101.

Kioko, J., and M. M. Okello. 2010. Land use cover and environmental changes in a semi-arid rangeland, Southern Kenya. Journal of Geography and Regional Planning 3: 322-326.

Kioko, J., M. M. Okello, and P. Muruthi. 2006. Elephant (Loxodonta africana africana, Blumenbach) numbers and distribution in the Tsavo-Amboseli Ecosystem, South Western Kenya. Pachyderm 40: 61-68.

Kioko, J., J. W. Kiringe, S.O. Seno. 2012. Impacts of livestock grazing on a savanna grassland in Kenya. Journal of Arid Land 4(1): 29-35.

Kiringe, J. W. 2005. Ecological and anthropological threats to ethno-medicinal plant resources and their utilization in Maasai communal ranches in the Amboseli region of Kenya. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 3: 231-241.

—. 2006. A survey of traditional health remedies used by the Maasai of Southern Kajiado District, Kenya. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 4: 57-69.

Kiringe, J., and M. Okello. 2005. Use and availability of tree and shrub resources on Maasai communal rangelands near Amboseli, Kenya. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 22: 37-46.

Kiringe, J. W., M. M. Okello, and S. W. Ekajul. 2007. Mangers’ perceptions of threats to the protected areas of Kenya: prioritization for effective management. Oryx 41: 1-8.

Mworia, J. K., J. K. Kinyamario, and J. W. Kiringe. 2002. Tree layer dynamics under different land uses and soils in semi-arid areas of Kenya. Multi-disciplinary Journal of the African Academy of Sciences Discovery and Innovation, Special Edition: 68-75.

Okello, M. M. 2005. An assessment of the large mammal component of the proposed wildlife sanctuary site in Maasai Kuku Group Ranch near Amboseli, Kenya. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 35: 63-76.

—. 2005. A survey of tourist expectations and economic potential for a proposed wildlife sanctuary in a Maasai group ranch near Amboseli, Kenya. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 13: 566-589.

—. 2005. Land use changes and human-wildlife conflicts in the Amboseli Area, Kenya. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 10: 19-28.

—. 2009. Community participation challenges in resource conservation in Kenya’s rural landscapes: Lessons from Amboseli, Kenya. Pages 9-17 in T. Meguro, ed. Re-conceptualization of Wildlife Conservation: Towards resonation between subsistence and wildlife. African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) Press, Nairobi.

—. 2009. Contraction of wildlife dispersal area and displacement by human activities in Kimana Group Ranch new Amboseli National Park, Kenya. The Open Conservation Biology Journal 3: 49-56.

—. 2012. The contraction of wildlife dispersal areas by human structures and activities in Mbirikani Group Ranch in the Amboseli Ecosystem, Kenya. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation 4(6): 243-259.

Okello, M. M., and D. E. D'Amour^. 2008. Agricultural expansion within Kimana electric fences and implications for natural resource conservation around Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Journal of Arid Environments 72: 2179–2192.

Okello, M. M., and K. Grasty^. 2009. The role of large mammals and protected areas to tourist satisfaction in the Northern Circuit, Tanzania. Tourism Analysis 14: 691-697.

Okello, M. M. and K. Grasty^. 2009. Contraction and status of Maasai lands as wildlife dispersal areas and implications for wildlife conservation in Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya. Pp. 49-96 in J D. Harris and P.L. Brown (eds) Wildlife: Destruction, Conservation and Biodiversity. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Okello, M. M., D. E. D'Amour^, and S. G. Manka*. 2008. Tourism attractions and satisfaction of Amboseli National Park, Kenya, and the implications for marketing and management. Tourism Analysis 13: 373-386.

Okello, M. M., and J. M. Kioko. 2010. Contraction of wildlife dispersal area in Olgulului-Ololorashi Group Ranch around Amboseli National Park, Kenya. The Open Conservation Biology Journal 4: 28-39.

Okello, M. M., and J. W. Kiringe. 2004. Threats to biodiversity and their implications in protected and adjacent dispersal areas of Kenya. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 12: 55-69.

Okello, M. M., S. G. Manka*, and D. E. D'Amour^. 2008. The relative importance of large mammal species for tourism in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Tourism Management 29: 751-760.

Okello, M. M., S. K. Seno, and B. L. Wishitemi. 2003. Maasai community wildlife sanctuaries in Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya: Management partnerships and their conditions for success. Parks 13: 7-15.

Okello, M. M., S. K. Seno, and R. W. Nthiga. 2009. Reconciling people's livelihoods and environmental conservation in the rural landscapes in Kenya: opportunities and challenges in the Amboseli landscape. Natural Resources Forum 33: 123-133.

Okello, M. M., and S. Tome. 2007. The Chyulu Hills: Raison d’Etre and consequences of contested proprietorship of an idyllic resource oasis. Pages 123-138 in B. Wishitemi, A. Spenceley, and H. Wells, eds. Culture and Community: Tourism studies in Eastern and Southern Africa. Rozenberg Publishers, Amsterdam.

Okello, M. M., B. E. Wishitemi, and A. M. Mwinzi. 2001. Relative importance of conservation areas in Kenya based on diverse tourist attractions. Journal of Tourism Studies 12: 39-49.

Okello, M. M., B. E. L. Wishitemi, and B. Lagat. 2005. Tourism potential and achievement of protected areas in Kenya: Criteria and prioritization. Tourism Analysis 10: 151-164.

Okello, M. M., B. E. L. Wishitemi, and F. Muhoro. 2002a. Forage intake rates and foraging efficiency of free ranging zebra and impala. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 32: 93-100.

Okello, M. M., B. E. L. Wishitemi, and A. M. Mwinzi. 2002b. A comparison of tourism potential and tourism achievement of protected areas in Kenya. Pages 195 - 209 in J. Akama and P. Sterry, eds. Cultural Tourism in Africa: Strategies for the New Millennium. Association for Tourism and Leisure, Arnhem, Netherlands.

Okello, M. M., and S. Yerian^. 2009. Tourist satisfaction in relation to attractions, and implications for conservation in the protected areas of the Northern Circuit, Tanzania. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 17: 1747-1764.

Okello, M. M., J. W. Kiringe, and J. M. Kioko. 2010. The dilemma of balancing conservation and strong tourism interests in a small national park: the case of Amboseli, Kenya. Pages 117-130 in A. O'Reilly and D. Murphy, eds. National Parks: Biodiversity, conservation and tourism. Nova Publishers, New York.

Okello, M. M., J. W. Kiringe, and J. M. Kioko. 2010. Degradation of rangelands: causes, ecological, wildlife conservation and socio-economic implications. Pages 1-76 in A. O'Reilly and D. Murphy, eds. Horizons in Earth Science Research. Nova Publishers, New York.

Okello, M. M., E. Buthmann, B. Mapinu, and H. C. Kahi. 2010. Community opinions on wildlife, resource use and livelhood competition in Kimana Group Ranch near Amboseli, Kenya. The Open Conservation Biology Journal 4: 34-45.

Okello, M. M. and J. M. Kioko. 2011. A field study in the status and threats of cultivation in Kimana and Ilchalai swamps in Amboseli dispersal area, Kenya. Natural Resources 2: 197-211.

Okello, M.M., L. Kenana and D. Kieti 2012. Factors influencing domestic tourism for urban and seimiurban populations around Nairobi National Park, Kenya. Tourism Analysis 17(1):59-69.

Seno, S. K., and W. W. Shaw. 2002. Land Tenure policies, Maasai traditions and wildlife conservation in Kenya. Society and Natural Resources 15: 79-88.

Wato, Y. A., G. M. Wahungu, and M. M. Okello. 2006. Correlates of wildlife snaring patterns in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya. Biological Conservation 132: 500-509.

Were, G. M., O. Ohiokpehai, J. B. Okeyo-Owuor, G. Mbagaya, J. Kimiywe, D. Mbithe, and M. M. Okello. 2010. Soybean (Glycine max) complementation and the zinc status of HIV and AIDS affected children in Suba District, Kenya. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 10: 2187-2202.

Wishitemi, B. E. L., and M. M. Okello. 2003. Application of the protected landscape model in southern Kenya. Parks 13: 21-29.

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.