2019: Cattles Effect on Wild Herbivores Grazing Patterns on the East African Savanna

MSc. Student: Louise Vang Sørensen 

Program: Msc., Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University

Supervisor: Professor Jens-Christian Svenning and Lecturer Robert Buitenwerf, Department of Bioscience, Ecoinformatic and Biodiversity, Aarhus University

Period: September – December 2019

Program: Msc., Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University

The Maasai Mara in East Africa is one of the last places to support a high density of large herbivores and their migration. However, local livestock herders share large parts of the Mara with the wildlife, potentially leading to competition for grass and other human-wildlife conflicts. Therefore, gaining knowledge and understanding of the effect of cattle grazing is of highest priority.

The aim of my master’s thesis is to investigate how cattle grazing effects the grazing patterns of wild herbivores such as Thomson’s Gazelle, Eland, Zebra and many others. Mara North Conservancy has implemented a cattle grazing scheme to ensure sustainable cattle grazing and avoid overgrazing. Thus, Mara North Conservancy is divided into different blocks where cattle are allowed to graze at a certain period of the year.

I will use the different grazing blocks to investigate ecological interactions between cattle and wild herbivores, such as competition for grass, or facilitation. I collect data by dividing the blocks into transects and counting all the herbivores within the transects. All data will be collected from the 18th September to 15th December 2019 in Mara North Conservancy.

Hopefully, the outcome of this study will improve our understanding of cattle grazing in the Maasai Mara and feed into a sustainable solution between cattle and wild herbivores.