Villages Protect Migratory Paths in Tanzania

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For millennia, the pastoral Maasai communities of Tanzania’s Tarangire ecosystem have been living in relative balance with the wildlife that migrates through their cattle-grazing lands. In what was once East Africa’s third largest migration, about 55,000 wild animals—elephants, lions, zebra, wildebeest, eland—leave Tarangire National Park each year during the dry season and head for phosphorous-rich lands to the north and east. The animals need the mineral to reproduce. The Maasai herds also move at this time, since cattle instinctually abandon these lands to avoid contracting a disease from breeding wildebeests.

Challenges

A rising human population has strained the region’s pastoral lifestyle. For decades, permanent settlements, agriculture, and roads have been sprawling from the capital city, Arusha. Farms now cover five of the nine wildlife migration routes out of Tarangire Park. While safe in the park during the dry season, the wildlife—many of them rare—must be able to disperse outside the park during the wet season to areas with mineral-rich soils. Frequent conflicts with farmers also put animals such as elephants at risk.

Goals

  • Preserve the remaining migration corridors outside Tarangire National Park.
  • Foster conservation agreements between local villages and tourism operators.
  • Test a variety of simple and inexpensive methods to prevent elephants and other wildlife from entering farms and raiding crops.
  • Determine the migration routes for bull elephants for future conservation efforts.

What WCS is Doing

In 1970, WCS helped establish Tarangire National Park. Some 30 years later, our researchers helped create Tanzania’s first conservation easement to save the calving grounds of the park’s wild animals. Although these lands rest 40 miles from park boundaries, WCS helped convince some of the park’s main tour operators that preserving these breeding grounds is vital to their businesses. Without protection of these lands, the wildlife populations inside the park would crash. The tour operators now pay one village, and are about to negotiate a contract with a second village, to not cultivate crops on the lands, which comprise around 64,000 acres. Funds derived from one easement helped build a school in Terrat village.
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