Human Livelihoods and Conservation

Posted: March 12, 2014

It’s been more than a month that students have arrived at the Tanzanian field station. The last several weeks were filled with lectures inside and outside the classroom, various exercises in the field, a full day spent in an Iraqwi homestead,  and field trips to different protected areas.

Field trips brought us to baboon-packed and scenic Lake Manyara National Park, and elephant-loaded Tarangire National Park with its large baobab trees. We also visited rural areas adjacent to the national parks where humans utilise the same resources as wildlife species. In these rural areas, disease transmission between livestock and wildlife species, competition for resources (wildlife species damaging crops or carnivores killing livestock), and illegal and unsustainable hunting of wildlife are negatively affecting wildlife populations.

Today, we visited Ngorongoro Conservation Area and its world famous Ngorongoro Crater (actually world’s largest continuous caldera) with its enormous densities of grazing wildlife, associated carnivores (mainly spotted hyenas and lions), and well-protected black rhinoceros population. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority implements an interesting approach that tries to harmonize human utilization of the landscape and wildlife conservation. Clearly, such a multiple-use approach only works with clear laws and limits, capacity to enforce these rules, and a solid economic basis (principally funded by photographic tourism).

So far, this approach seems to work well and other areas in Northern Tanzania (such as Manyara Ranch located between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks) employ similar approaches that aim at harmonizing human livelihoods and wildlife conservation. Clearly, co-existence of large mammals and humans remains difficult at times even in these well-managed areas, but overcoming the challenges will be worthwhile for both the environment and humans inhabiting these fascinating landscapes.