Symposium 2019: Sustainable development of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem in the coming decade – a research perspective

Photo: Michael Munk

When: 26 August 2019 at 9:00-17:00 followed by dinner

Where: Aarhus BSS, Fuglesangs Allé 4, 8210 Aarhus V, Building 2610, Room S530

Participants: This Symposium is for members of the MMSDI Network and invited guests. We have a few seats available for and others who have a scientific interest in the topic. Please contact Pernille Kallehave, if you are interested in participating.

Price: free

Sustainable development of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem in the coming decade – a research perspective

Five years ago the Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative was founded as an interdisciplinary and international network of researchers, NGOs and representatives from the maasai community. The aim of the network was to contribute to conserving the Maasai Mara ecosystem, its rich wildlife and culture through interdisciplinary research and development initiatives. We were ready for a long-term commitment.

Since 2014 we have started up more than 20 research projects across disciplines. In close cooperation with a broad range of people and organisations across the Mara, we have been inspired, collected data and shared knowledge, laughs and bumpy roads. The first four articles* have been published and many more are in the pipeline. The research results have been shared and discussed with Kenyan stakeholders at the political level, with the local organisations and with people living in the Mara.

During the last five years we have witnessed huge changes happening in the Greater Mara ecosystem. Some of them may be due to climate change and new socio-economic conditions in the Mara. Others are likely the result of external factors like the burning of the Mau forest or dynamics in Tanzania. Overall, consequences are manifesting themselves as drought, problems with food and water security, jobs and growth and – not least – habitat degradation and loss of biodiversity.

At this Symposium we will broaden our MMSDI perspective and set focus on the wider Mara-Serengeti ecosystem that the Mara is an integral part of. We will look into the coming decade and discuss how our research can contribute to a more sustainable development of this ecosystem. Given the rising pressures and ongoing losses, it is clear that conservation activities need strengthening, coupled to a broader sustainable development of the Mara-Serengeti and the surrounding regions, i.e., as envisioned in the UN global sustainability goals (SDGs). Further, the UN has declared the decade of 2021-2030 as the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. Inspired by this, it may also be time to complement conservation in the Mara-Serengeti with more proactive restoration approaches?

Register for the Symposium




Rolls and coffee



Welcome and presentation round

Professor Jacob Eskildsen, Head of Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Denmark

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, BIOCHANGE, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University (Chairman of the Board of Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative (MMSDI), Denmark



Changes in the Mara – experiences from the ground

David Noosaron, Landowner, Mararianta Village, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya

Saningo Kuluo, Guide at Karen Blixen Camp, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya

Benedict Walubengo, Headmaster, Karen Blixen Camp Trust Educational Initiative, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya



Bringing local communities on board developing sustainable land use in the Greater Serengeti-Mara ecosystem (the AfricanBioservices project)

Professor Bente Jessen Graa, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway



The Imperatives for Livelihood sustainability in the Mara Ecosystem

Dr. Alice Odingo, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya



Health break



Modelling wildlife population dynamics in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem (The AfricanBioservices project)

Dr. Joseph O. Ogutu, Senior statistician, Universität Hohenheim, Germany 



Status on Fencing in the Mara and the Integrated Greater Mara Research Hub

Dr. Irene Amoke, CEO Kenya Wildlife Trust, Kenya





13.15-14.30: Short (15 minutes) presentation of four MMSDI projects from Aarhus University

Fencing and emerging new commons in Mara and Laikipia

Associate Professor Mette Løvschal and Research Assistant Marie Ladekjær Gravesen, Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, ARTS, Aarhus University, Denmark

GIS expert, PhD Peder Klith Bøcher, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark


Accelerating land degradation in the Maasai Mara

Assistant Professor Robert Buitenwerf, BIOCHANGE, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark


Findings of the highly leukotoxic JP2 genotype of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans in Mara

Professor Dorte Haubek, Department of Dentistry and Oral Health, HEALTH, Aarhus University, Denmark


Strategizing Grand Societal Challenges in the Maasai Mara

Associate Professor Toke Bjerregaard, Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, Denmark


The Mara North Conservancy Dog Project – turning research into action

Rikke Langebæk, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Faculty of Health Science, University of Copenhagen



Health Break


15.00-16.45: Workshop

Future perspectives (research needs relative to threats and opportunities) including links to SDGs and to the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration

Perspective by Professor Jens-Christian Svenning & general discussion



Summing up and conclusions by Professor Jacob Eskildsen and Professor Jens-Christian Svenning



Dinner at Madklubben


 *MMSDI papers: 

Nankaya, J., Nampushi, J., Petenya, S. et al. Environ Dev Sustain (2019). Ethnomedicinal plants of the Loita Maasai of Kenya

Løvschal, M., Håkonsson, D.D. & Amoke, I. 2018. Are goats the new elephants in the room? Changing land-use strategies in Greater Mara, Kenya. Land Use Policy. DOI:10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.04.029

Mette Løvschal, Peder Klith Bøcher, Jeppe Pilgaard, Irene Amoke, Alice Odingo, Aggrey Thuo & Jens-Christian Svenning Fencing bodes a rapid collapse of the unique Greater Mara ecosystem Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 41450 (2017)

Arthur Kemoli, Hans Gjørup, Marie-Louise Milvang Nørregaard, Mark Lindholm, Tonnie Mulli, Anders Johansson og Dorte Haubek. Prevalence and impact of infant oral mutilation on dental occlusion and oral health-related quality of life among Kenyan adolescents from Maasai Mara. BMC Oral Health (2018) 18:173