Academic Update from Tanzania

Posted: April 4, 2012

Name: John Kioko, Ph.D.
Position: Lecturer in Wildlife Ecology
Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania

On March 19th, the first group of spring semester students left Tanzania for Kenya. Center Director Dr. Vedasto Ndibalema and Student Affairs Manager Whitney Morgan received the group from Kenya at the border town of Namanga. The students have quickly settled in – thanks to experience gained in Kenya. After an orientation to our center and the host community, the students were ready for the start of academics. In this session of the semester, much of the learning is outdoors.  After a day of introductory lectures, students were ready for first field visit – a trip to Lake Manyara.  Dr. Christian Kiffner and Dr. John Kioko had designed field practice exercises on primate behavior and large mammal associations. The park, having the highest concentrations of Olive baboons and with large mammal aggregations was a perfect place for this.

Our next academic activity was a travelling lecture to various sites where the three faculty led discussions on the ongoing ecological, wildlife management, and policy issues within the Tarangire Manyara Ecosystem. At our first stop we were able to explain to the students how the parks are interlinked to the adjacent areas. Mr. Huba, a field water specialist with the Tanzanian government, gave a talk on the historical ecological dimension around Lake Manyara National Park, a sound basis for students to understand the ecology of  the system.

Tanzania is endowed with unique and renowned protected areas. After the travelling lecture, our next trip was to Ngorongoro Crater – one of the eight natural wonders of the world.  The crater is set within Ngorongoro Conservation Area – a unique form of protected area where humans (the Maasai) are legally allowed to live. The area manager talked to the students about the management issues before we descended into the crater. The 250 km2 crater hosts diverse wildlife. We saw lions, rhinos and elephants, and  it was a great day for students and the faculty.

The two-country program offers students the opportunity to compare and contrast protected area management approaches across East Africa. On March 28th, we left for Burunge Wildlife Managed Area (WMA) for a study on community wildlife management. The WMA set aside adjacent Tarangire National Park aims to boost the liveliohood of the local community and to enhance ecological connectivity between Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks. A faculty led roundtable with the WMA management committee enlightened the students on the successes and challenges of community wildlife management initiatives.

Now the students are busy at base camp working on assignments and studying. We have final examination on Sunday 1st and then we on Monday 2nd depart for a week long field trip to Serengeti National Park.