Research in the Maasai Steppe

Posted: May 2, 2012

What are the consequences of climate change for local livelihoods in northern Tanzania? Which wildlife species are used by traditional healers? Which wildlife species compete most for scarce resources with the abundant livestock? How many elephants, wildebeest, zebra and other species are in this ecosystem? Which areas do wildlife species use for migrating between protected areas? Do different forms of protection affect behavior and demography of wildlife?

To address these and related issues, SFS students went out to the field, counted and observed animals, interviewed local stakeholders and compiled a wealth of data. Surely, the nine days of fieldwork were packed with memorable experiences: exploring largely unbeaten tracks in the wilderness, close encounters with elephants, conversations with local stakeholders which opened new perspectives and views, and great teamwork among students, drivers, guides and faculty. To the end, heavy rain made fieldwork more challenging and occasionally field crews had to work hard to get cars out off the mud. Despite all the positive, adventurous experiences, we also directly experienced the challenges of this ecosystem at first hand. In one study area, we recorded several elephant carcasses that had been poached recently. This range of experiences, however, enables students to put their research into perspective.

Currently, we are analyzing the data and will soon start writing up the reports. Much of our research has direct relevance to the conservation of wildlife in this amazing ecosystem and to the livelihood of its people. We are looking forward to present the results to all local stakeholders in the end of the semester.