Long-term persistence of wildlife populations in a pastoral area

Facilitating coexistence between people and wildlife is a major conservation challenge in East Africa. Some conservation models aim to balance the needs of people and wildlife, but the effectiveness of these models is rarely assessed. Using a case-study approach, we assessed the ecological performance of a pastoral area in northern Tanzania (Manyara Ranch) and established a long-term wildlife population monitoring program (carried out intermittently from 2003 to 2008 and regularly from 2011 to 2019) embedded in a distance sampling framework. By comparing density estimates of the road transect-based long-term monitoring to estimates derived from systematically distributed transects, we found that the bias associated with nonrandom placement of transects was nonsignificant. Overall, cattle and sheep and goat reached the greatest densities and several wildlife species occurred at densities similar (zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, Kirk's dik-dik) or possibly even greater (giraffe, eland, lesser kudu, Grant's gazelle, Thomson's gazelle) than in adjacent national parks in the same ecosystem. Generalized linear mixed models suggested that most wildlife species (8 out of 14) reached greatest densities during the dry season, that wildlife population densities either remained constant or increased over the 17-year period, and that herbivorous livestock species remained constant, while domestic dog population decreased over time. Cross-species correlations did not provide evidence for interference competition between grazing or mixed livestock species and wildlife species but indicate possible negative relationships between domestic dog and warthog populations. Overall, wildlife and livestock populations in Manyara Ranch appear to coexist over the 17-year span. Most likely, this is facilitated by existing connectivity to adjacent protected areas, effective anti-poaching efforts, spatio-temporal grazing restrictions, favorable environmental conditions of the ranch, and spatial heterogeneity of surface water and habitats. This long-term case study illustrates the potential of rangelands to simultaneously support wildlife conservation and human livelihood goals if livestock grazing is restricted in space, time, and numbers.

Last Updated
February 17, 2021