Good news about the environment is rare these days, but in Tanzania there are signs that local wildlife conservation efforts can effectively protect the natural resources that provide the lion’s share of revenue for the economy. Eco-tourism is Tanzania’s largest economic sector and biggest dollar earner for this developing nation, but wildlife populations have suffered in recent decades from poaching and clashes with people involved in other economic activities such as farming and mining. The good news comes from a new study that found community-based wildlife conservation can quickly result in clear ecological success, with the largest and smallest species being among the winners.
In a paper published today in the Journal of Mammalogy, scientists from the Wild Nature Institute documented significantly higher densities of giraffes and dik-diks, and lower densities of cattle in a community Wildlife Management Area (WMA) relative to an unprotected control site. Dr. Derek Lee, lead author of the study and Principal Scientist at Wild Nature Institute said, ”There have been social and economic critiques of WMAs, but the ecological value or success of WMAs for wildlife conservation had never been quantified. Our data demonstrated that WMA establishment and management had positive ecological outcomes in the form of higher wildlife densities and lower livestock densities. This met our definition of ecological success, and hopefully these results will encourage more community-based conservation efforts.”
One of the important aspects of Wild Nature Institute's community environmental education and advocacy work is sharing information and providing training for Tanzania's safari guides and people in the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the most lucrative sectors of the Tanzanian economy, bringing critical dollars and jobs as well as creating an incentive to protect wildlife and habitat. Environmental education is an excellent way to convey the results of our research to local Tanzanians, who can then share the knowledge with their colleagues, friends, and families throughout the country.
Wild Nature Institute partnered with PAMS Foundation to create manuals for safari guides about ecology, botany, invertebrates, and wildlife.
The goal is to establish standards and certifications for Tanzanian guides, and ensure a high-quality experience for tourists in one of the most spectacularly wildlife-rich countries on the planet. Our efforts bridge science and public outreach, promote science-based conservation values in guides and their local communities, and spread a conservation message to tourists from across the globe.
We just completed another survey for giraffes and other ungulates as part of our Project GIRAFFE and TUNGO programs in northern Tanzania. We conduct surveys towards the end of each of three precipitation season, the short rains, long rains, and dry season. We identify individual giraffes using photographs of their unique spot patterns - so we know where they are and with whom they spend their time - and we also map the location and number of all the hoofed mammals (ungulates) in the Tarangire Ecosystem. Our data are providing critical information about population trends and habitat use of these ecologically and economically important animals.
We got off to a bit of a rocky start with some heavy rains, and ended up stuck in mud, but once things dried up a bit we had a very successful survey.
The Tarangire Ecosystem of Tanzania is a stunning place, supporting one of the highest densities of large mammals on the planet. The ungulates we are working to study and conserve are key to the health of this ecosystem, shaping the vegetation, spreading nutrients, and comprising a critical component in the savanna's web of life. Without the ungulates, there would be no predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs, nor would there be scavengers like vultures, all of which enable the tourism economy here to thrive. We thank our funders for helping us to protect this critical region.
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