Title: Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock in a heterogenous pastoral landscape: Implications for coexistence and community based conservation.
Authors: Peter Tyrrell, Samantha Russell and David Western.
Abstract: Rangelands across the world are home to millions of pastoral people and vast wildlife populations, which create a complex landscape for conservation. Community based conservation has been used to promote human-wildlife coexistence on pastoral lands, protecting wildlife outside of official protected areas. With the spread of community based conservation within the rangelands there is a need for more information on successful management practices. This study provides an example of this in the South Rift, Kenya, where seasonal movements of pastoralists aid coexistence. We used Density Surface Modelling (DSM), a novel tool for conservation managers in the rangelands, to predict wildlife and livestock abundance across the landscape and seasons. Wildlife grazers, zebra (Equus burchelli) and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), follow expected metabolic patterns, feeding on short grass outside the conservation area in the wet season, before returning to the taller-lower quality grazing in the conservation areas during the drought. Browsing wildlife, impala (Aepyceros melampus) and Grant’s gazelle (Nanger granti), move from open grassland and bushland areas into thicker, denser browse as the seasons progress towards the drought. Livestock, both shoats (Ovis aries, and Capra aegagrus hircus) and cattle (Bos indicus), are managed by community grazing committees, who enforce a grazing plan that creates spatialetemporal separation between wildlife and livestock. They exploit the high-quality grazing in the livestock area during the wet season while conserving pasture in the conservation area, which is utilized only as forage is depleted. This ensures that wildlife has access to a diverse resource base across all seasons and potentially reduces competition, allowing for a diverse and abundant wildlife community to coexist with livestock. This highlights the importance of the presence and maintenance of spatial and temporal heterogeneity of forage resources, through livestock management, for community based conservation. We encourage more community based conservation initiatives in pastoral landscapes to incorporate livestock management into planning.