2019: Nile crocodiles and protected area in East Africa

MSc. Student: Line Skipper Jensen

Program: Msc., Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University

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

Period: September – December 2019

Climate change poses an increasing threat to wildlife and ecosystems around the world. The Mara River is in risk of drying, which would have massive consequences for humans and wildlife. While widespread, the Nile crocodile is listed as vulnerable at a country level in many parts of its range or lacks data to fully determine its status, particularly in East Africa. Further are knowledge on distribution, occupied habitats and population size of crocodiles scare.

The aim of my master’s thesis is to estimate the population density of crocodiles in areas around the Mara River inside Lemek Conservancy, Mara North Conservancy and Maasai Mara National Reserve. I want to compare finds with data from the MaraCount (2002) to evaluate how the population has developed over the past decades. Second, I want to assess the habitat and establish which variables in the habitats are most likely to ensure crocodiles. By evaluating preferred living areas for crocodiles, I want to identify if these differ according to the different management plans of Lemek Conservancy, Mara North Conservancy and Maasai Mara National Reserve. The habitat assessment will be used as ground-truthing for satellite images, in order to extrapolate information to the wider Mara region

With this study, we want to understand the role of the protected area in maintaining the crocodile population.