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Savannah Ecology and Community-Based Conservation

Faculty-LedFaculty-Led | Ecology & Conservation Kenya

Module Overview

While the Maasai Mara National Reserve is famous worldwide, the community lands that surround it are less well known, despite their greater overall biodiversity.  Over the last decade, land use change and an increasing human population has seen growing pressure being put on this savanna ecosystem. While some areas have seen increased degradation, the creation of several community-owned wildlife conservancies has allowed for regeneration of grass, easing of pressure on water sources and the slow return of Acacia woodland.  In sharp contrast to the National Reserve, conservancies provide a predictable monthly income to the communities that own them, as well as improved grass for their cattle on a rotational grazing basis, allowing them to derive direct benefits from conservation and improved land management.

Location

This module is based in Mara Naboisho Conservancy, a 50,000-acre area set up in 2010 by over 500 landowners on the northern border of Maasai Mara National Reserve. Naboisho’s open plains, Acacia-Commiphora woodland, rocky outcrops and varied riverine vegetation provide habitat for around 400 bird species and over 60 mammal species. This area plays host to some of the highest wildlife densities in Africa and with its rotational cattle grazing plan for the surrounding Maasai community, it is an ideal location to study human influence on a savanna ecosystem, ecology in general and challenges to conservation in East Africa.

Accommodation will be provided in partnership with the Koyiaki Guiding School, a community initiative to train young Maasai women and men as field guides in order to encourage employment in the wildlife tourism industry.  The guiding school is an ideal base, with adequate accommoadation, hot showers, toilets, an outdoor dining area and access to classrooms, internet and electricity.

Educational Outcomes

Practical: Field-based data collection and analysis; bird and plant identification techniques; big cat tracking; camera trap transects; and participatory rural appraisal.

Theory: Savanna ecology; community based conservation; holistic management and rotational cattle grazing for improved grass yields; human-wildlife interactions; and consumptive use vs. traditional protectionism.

Module Length

The minimum duration for this module is 6 days.  The maximum length is 21 days (longer modules may incorporate additional study locations).

Contributors

Stewart Thompson

Stewart is a Professor of Biodiversity Conservation and has led the Spatial Ecology and Land Use Unit in Biological & Medical Sciences at Oxford Brookes for over 20 years. He has a particular interest in how threatened species use landscapes in response to policy and management initiatives. 

Much of his current work surrounds understanding herbivore population changes and movement patterns in protected areas.  For the last decade, he has been working on projects in the Maasai Mara, investigating herbivore response to the creation of wildlife conservancies and assessing aspects of eco-tourism impacts to wildlife.

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Big Cat Monitoring

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Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens

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