The Life of Field Researchers: Wildlife Counting in Tarangire National Park

Posted: October 1, 2012

Name: Christian Kiffner, Ph.D.
Position: Lecturer in Techniques of Wildlife Management
Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania

The fall semester in the Tanzanian program is in full swing. SFS students are busy writing papers on their observations on baboon behavior, quickly learning Kiswahili, and exploring the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem.

The last field exercise brought us to Tarangire National Park, situated approximately 100 km from our center at Moyo Hill. During the morning hours we conducted a road transect survey of the northern part of the more than 2000 km² national park. The park is a dry season refuge for many wildlife species and is well known for its huge elephant population and its stunning landscape full of Baobab trees. As it is now the peak of the dry season, the park was packed with wildlife.

SFS students counted hundreds of elephants, wildebeest, zebra and impala, encountered Cape buffalo, waterbuck, ostrich, dik diks and the rarely seen eland antelope, and some were even lucky to see lions and  a cheetah – the first and definitely not the last large carnivore sightings during this semester! Before leaving the park, we visited the lion research camp, and had a brief insight into giraffe and lion research in this area and caught a glimpse of the life of field researchers.

The animal count data has already been digitalized, and next week students will apply recently learned techniques to analyze the data. This semester, we will compare our data to surveys collected during the wet season: a hands-on experience to understand dynamics of wildlife populations in this unique ecosystem.