From Dung to Grasses: Learning in SFS Tanzania

Posted: September 24, 2012

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

It’s now two weeks into the fall program, and students have been very energetic from the start. After introductory lectures on Kiswahili and culture, wildlife policy, ecology and management, field learning has picked up. A guest lecture on Iraqw (our host community) introduced students on their new home. By learning Kiswahili – the national language in Tanzania – students are beginning to engage in dialogue with the locals, a majority of whom don’t speak English.

Our first trip was to Lake Manyara National Park. Here students got a glimpse of African wildlife, with the major task in the park being to learn the different wildlife and plants present in the park and to learn their ecology. Each student made own field observations on the natural phenomena in the park, ranging from elephant behavior to the geological processes within the Great Rift Valley. Students spent a morning studying baboon behavior in the park. The park with one of the highest density of baboons in Africa was an ideal setting for this.

I have been leading students in doing grassland condition assessments – much of this involving identifying the grasses of the African savannah. Learning wildlife signs in the wild has captivated students, and are now able to tell the differences between dung and tracks from a diverse wildlife and how to apply this in studying the species ecology.

Students have started working on assignments based on the field exercises – this gives students good experience on how to work from the field, particularly in developing world. We look forward to visiting Tarangire National Park next week where students will spend a day counting wildlife in the park.