With a great mix of returning Summer I students, Tanzanian students and new Summer II students, the session is already in full swing. Summer session II is geared towards learning ecological and socioeconomic field research techniques: so far, students have learned how to plan and conduct ecological studies and directly implemented this classroom knowledge in the field by studying giraffe behavior in Manyara Ranch. After having learned about the necessity and basics of wildlife monitoring students engaged in the seasonal wildlife counts. Each semester and each summer II session, SFS students contribute to the ecosystem-wide wildlife monitoring that we had initiated in 2011 and count wildlife in Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks, Manyara Ranch and the Mto wa Mbu Game Controlled Area. This is not only a unique experience for students to transfer their theoretical skills into practice but also contributes substantially to our understanding on how different conservation approaches work in this ecosystem and how animal populations respond to variation in climatic conditions. For example, last rainy season was late and rather short and our monitoring data may reveal if and how this has affected wildlife populations in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem. Yesterday, we completed the count in Lake Manyara National Park; within the counting exercise we had fascinating close encounters with elephants, primates and a range of ungulates and enjoyed the scenery of what Ernest Hemingway described ‘the loveliest I have seen in Africa’. In the following days, students will learn the theory on socioeconomic surveys and will learn first-hand how the Hadzabe –an ethnicity that still largely depends on hunting and gathering – make their living in the harsh environment of the Lake Eyasi basin.
White pelicans in the hippo pool area of Lake Manyara National Park.
A close encounter with an impressive and friendly elephant bull at Lake Manyara National Park.