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Evaluating the potential for human-wildlife coexistence in the Serengeti ecosystem

Raised of $4,540 Goal
Ended on 3/23/19
Campaign Ended
  • $3,462
  • 77%
  • Finished
    on 3/23/19

About This Project

Tanzania’s Serengeti ecosystem faces the challenge of balancing wildlife conservation and local livelihoods in an increasingly human-dominated landscape. Communities face decisions about what actions to take in response to wildlife conflict, yet often lack information about their effectiveness. In our pilot participatory research program, we work with communities living in the Serengeti ecosystem to evaluate the impact of actions to improve coexistence between people and wildlife.

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What is the context of this research?

In 2018, LPZ began working with three villages that have taken steps to address human-wildlife conflict, including: community-led groups to prevent crop damage by elephants and other wildlife in order to improve agricultural productivity, and construction of livestock watering holes to reduce grazing pressure in wildlife areas.

A critical aspect of our research is co-creating solutions: we directly engage villages and local Community Monitors in research design and data collection. Decisions about which indicators to monitor are made based on the priorities of each village, in order to promote ownership of the process of evaluation and reliable data.

What is the significance of this project?

The human population around Serengeti National Park is growing rapidly. Human-wildlife conflict, bushmeat hunting, livestock incursions, and deforestation have accelerated as a result. As people and wildlife increasingly compete for land and resources, decision-makers face monumental choices about the role that local communities will play in shaping Serengeti’s future. Too often, these choices are made in favor of either wildlifeor communities. These decisions are often hindered by a lack of scientific evidence about community actions which may maintain a balance between the needs of people and the needs of wildlife. Building evidence of the impacts of community-led actions to reduce the challenges of living with wildlife can offer a path toward improved coexistence in the ecosystem.

What are the goals of the project?

LPZ works with communities to build evidence of the effectiveness of local solutions to conservation challenges. By measuring the impact of community-led strategies, we aim to empower communities to adopt strategies that work, and to improve the potential for humans and wildlife to continue to share this ecosystem.

In September 2018, Community Monitors began collecting data on prices of local commodities to monitor how efforts to reduce elephant conflict affects crop yield and production of bushmeat. In another village, Community Monitors conduct monthly transects to determine the impact of a water hole on people and wildlife interactions.

Data is collected by Community Monitors using smartphones, then compiled and analyzed by LPZ researchers.


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Funds for data collection support stipends and technology costs for six Community Monitors to record and upload data within their village each month, including wildlife transects, efforts taken to prevent elephant crop-raiding, and prices of commodities in local markets.

Keeping our project vehicle on the road is essential to allow us to visit these villages regularly to meet with the Community Monitors, troubleshoot technology issues, and provide feedback on data collection quality. This includes $150 per month for fuel, maintenance and running costs.

We believe that it’s important that village members receive regular feedback on the study and results. In addition to hosting village meetings, we plan to provide further training for the Community Monitors to interpret and share results. This promotes the chances of scaling up successes to other communities. Costs for hosting a series of training workshops and meetings is estimated at $1,300.

Endorsed by

This is an interesting study.As it aims to address some of the questions we as conservation practitioners are facing, lack of research backed solutions to solve conservation challenges in Serengeti ecosystem. Will be curious waiting for the research results.
Wildlife-induced damage is a primary threat to conservation and livelihoods in this area of the Serengeti ecosystem. This project is highly relevant as community engagement is critical in order to reduce human-wildlife conflict, and there is a serious need to know how communities can best utilize available resources to prevent damage. Dennis and Martin are highly qualified and knowledgeable about this system and possess the unique combination of scientific and facilitation skills to make this project a success.
This is a very exciting and important project that provides communities with data and information on how to tackle human-wildlife conflict. Understanding which indicators to track and obtaining reliable information to monitor them is critical to help developing appropriate actions to minimise the impacts of such conflicts. Dennis has been working for many years and has a deep understanding of the social and ecological processes taking place in the Serengeti, therefore, his work will definitely have an impact on these communities.
This research is taking a very novel approach, working with communities to create research that is relevant to their livelihoods and to effective conservation. I'm very excited to see this project develop!

Project Timeline

This pilot research program was initiated in September 2018, and is expected to last through December 2019, with the potential to scale if the approach is successful. Dissemination meetings are intended to provide periodic updates to the members of participating villages and local government officials, culminating in sharing key findings with key conservation stakeholders and decision-makers.

Jan 30, 2019

Meeting with Community Monitors to review data collection

Jan 31, 2019

Community Monitors update village members on data collection

Feb 05, 2019

Project Launched

May 31, 2019

Analysis of preliminary results

Jun 15, 2019

Training of Community Monitors on interpreting results and dissemination

Meet the Team

Dennis Rentsch
Dennis Rentsch
Serengeti Research Scientist


Lincoln Park Zoo
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Martin Andimile Mbila
Martin Andimile Mbila
Research Coordinator

Dennis Rentsch

I am a Conservation Biologist who has worked in the Serengeti ecosystem for more than 15 years, both as a scientist and as a project leader. My areas of interest include understanding how decisions by local households influence wildlife populations, and how conservation programs can better engage communities to enhance success. I am particularly interested in steps communities are taking to address human-wildlife conflicts. I believe in the importance of understanding the perspectives of communities around the Serengeti when managing conservation programs, and I am interested in how we as scientists can better engage local people in conducting relevant research to inform decision-making.

Martin Andimile Mbila

Martin was born in the southern highlands of Tanzania, and developed an interest in conservation at a young age. He went on to become an ecologist, with a focus on studying the anthropogenic impacts on wildlife in Tanzania’s national parks. In particular, Martin has researched the role of bushmeat hunting on local livelihoods, and the impact on wildlife populations. He served as field officer for the Bushmeat-free Eastern African Network (BEAN), and went on to conduct his PhD research in Lwafi Game Reserve in Western Tanzania. More recently, Martin was the Research Scientist on a research project to determine the role of bushmeat in zoonotic disease transmission in Tanzania.

Martin is a skilled facilitator with extensive experience in community engagement and participatory research methods. Martin works closely with the Community Monitors on the data collection, and making sure that the key findings are communicated back to the village leaders, as well as conservation partners.

Additional Information

Examples of research questions identified by these communities include: “Can preventing crop-raiding by elephants improve household income and reduce engagement in bushmeat hunting and charcoal burning?” and “Does construction of a permanent livestock watering hole on village land reduce or increase human-wildlife interactions?”.

Project Backers

  • 46Backers
  • 77%Funded
  • $3,462Total Donations
  • $75.26Average Donation
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