Supporting the Next Generation of Wildlife Managers in Tanzania

Published: 1 March 2022

The University of Glasgow is supporting Tanzanian students to build the skills and experience they need to address wildlife management challenges in Africa.

Young woman standing in the savanna with a group of elephants in the background

Africa is home to some of the planet’s most inspiring natural wonders. Unique ecosystems support a wide diversity of animal and plant life while also supporting national economies through tourism. Effectively managing these valuable natural resources is critical for both the wildlife that live in them and the people that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Supported by scholarships from the University of Glasgow’s GCRF Small Grants Fund, three Tanzanian students completed master's degrees in Conservation Management of African Ecosystems. These scholarships enable young researchers to build international networks and gain the skills to support effective conservation management in Tanzania.

Loyce Majige focused on the challenge of human-wildlife conflict and is now working for the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (STEP), an internationally recognised conservation NGO. Ms. Majige’s work highlights the importance of post-graduate training opportunities for young African researchers.

Tanzania is home to one of the largest remaining elephant populations in Africa. Elephants are a keystone species, playing a critical role in the Savannah ecosystem and are a primary draw for tourism. However, conservation efforts to protect elephants can often come into conflict with other interests, such as agriculture. Crop raiding by elephants can have a catastrophic effect on household food security.

Damage from elephants can result in losses of more than 80% in the yield of crops that provide the primary food source for subsistence farming families. In addition, elephants can destroy property and every year injure or kill hundreds of people.  These impacts inevitably affect local support for conservation efforts and can result in retaliatory killing of wildlife. Ms. Majige’s project aimed to explore this conflict and identify solutions.

Addressing a complex problem

Supervised by Professor Sarah Cleaveland and Dr Thomas Morrison, Ms. Majige worked with an international team to develop urgently needed wildlife management strategies. Initial investigations centered around whether the use of electric fences prevents elephant-induced crop damage in the Western Serengeti. Ms Majige’s project looked at elephant behavior along electric fences with respect to breaches, movements, and shifts of behavior and habitat.

The data Ms. Majige collected demonstrates that electric fencing can effectively prevent elephant access to adjacent farms and may be an appropriate tool to reduce negative human-elephant interactions, including crop-raiding, in areas where electric fencing is ecologically, socially, and financially appropriate.

The project results contribute to the evidence base for developing appropriate and effective solutions to human-wildlife conflict, which is considered a high priority for the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute.

Training the next generation of conservationists

The scientific findings highlight only one impact of this work. Through the funding provided by the GCRF Small Grants Fund, a local scientist was able to develop the interdisciplinary skills to progress her career in conservation and contribute to the development of sustainable protection of ecosystems, natural resources and rural livelihoods.  As a female researcher, the opportunity to further her career is important to addressing gender bias in the recruitment and training of female conservationists in Tanzania.

Loyce explains; “This research project has developed my scientific and professional skills in critical thinking, communication, problem-solving and challenged me in new ways. These skills have paved the way to pursue further my future career as a renowned conservation researcher. This experience has led to me successfully applying for a job with the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program as my research interests and experience closely parallels their needs.”

Scholarships like this provide opportunities for female African researchers and provide new partnership opportunities. Looking to the future, Ms. Majige’s role with the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program has created opportunities for future partnerships.  “Working with Tanzania’s promising young scientists is not just about the research we do together now, it’s about the relationships we build,” says Professor Cleaveland. “These scholarships keep us connected to future research leaders in Africa and I am looking forward to working with Loyce as her career develops even further.”

Key facts

  • An early career female Tanzanian researcher undertook her Master's degree in Conservation Management of African Ecosystems at UofG and has secured a full-time position in her field in Tanzania.
  • Findings suggest that game fencing may be an effective tool in preventing incursions of elephants onto croplands, but need to be considered among a wider range of costs and benefits.
  • Once complete, the work will inform recommendations for conservation organizations and communities working to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Tanzania.
  • Collaborative networks for elephant research and field conservation in Tanzania have been established between the University of Glasgow, the Grumeti Fund and the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program.

First published: 1 March 2022