Human-wildlife coexistence in Kenya
Investigating how to balance the needs of people and lions effectively.
The needs of wildlife are increasingly in conflict with the needs of people as human populations continue to grow. In arid landscapes where farming is not always viable as a consistent source of food or revenue, grasslands must be devoted to livestock grazing. However, the conversion of land to pasture fragments already diminished habitat for vulnerable wildlife, while overgrazing can lead to soil erosion and near irreversible desertification. Despite the challenges, addressing human needs does not inevitably lead to the degradation of rangeland habitat.
The savannah ecosystems of East Africa have evolved under heavy grazing from migratory wildlife and pastoralist communities such as the Maasai for thousands of years. Cow dung from community herds has been shown to enrich soils and increase plant diversity in nutrient limited grasslands, even across millennial scales. Determining the most effective and beneficial land-management strategies may provide guidelines for similar habitats across Africa, potentially serving as a model for global adaptation.
The conservancies surrounding Kenya’s Maasai Mara protect critical pastures and provide habitat for migrating grazers. Lion Center team member Abby Guthmann is working in Enonkishu, the northernmost Conservancy surrounding the Mara, where rotational grazing is being used to restore degraded grassland and increase pasture productivity. Comparing Enonkishu with neighboring conservancies that employ traditional cattle management strategies may lead to insights on proper livestock management. This in turn may increase the utility of pasturelands for both people and wildlife, allowing Maasai communities to improve livestock production while benefiting from wildlife tourism.
By measuring the effects of alternative management strategies on the abundance and richness of mammalian species in the Mara ecosystem, Abby’s research will contribute to understanding how best to foster sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife.
- Lion Center team member Abby Guthmann is looking at the effects of cattle management strategies in human-wildlife coexistence in conservancy around the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
- Abby’s work could contribute to management strategies that foster a more sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife.