13 April 2009

Predators, Prey, and People

Project Personnel: Paul Schuette, Phd Student, Montana State University (supervised by Dr. Scott Creel); Michael Kapoli, Research Assistant, Olkiramatian; & Patrick Moikinyo, Research Assistant, Shompole.

Project Overview:
This project examines predator - prey dynamics, human - carnivore conflict, and carnivore community ecology in the southern Rift Valley of Kenya. Research is interested in the relationships between the Maasai people, large predators, and their prey, and how these interactions change in relation to land use strategies, habitat availability, and environmental conditions.

We are collaborating with the Maasai people of Olkiramatian and Shompole Group Ranches, SORALO, the African Conservation Centre, the African Conservation Fund, and fellow researchers to collectively examine the processes regulating this biologically rich and complex ecosystem and identify conservation strategies that benefit people, wildlife, and landscapes.

Research Strategy & Community Involvement:

We have designed a research program to estimate distributions and densities of lions, spotted hyenas, and their prey, livestock, and many smaller carnivore species. Our project will identify behavioral strategies of lions and spotted hyenas that allow coexistence with people across this region of Maasai land, and determine where potential or actual conflict occurs. We are also collecting data on livestock predation and livestock husbandry practices to better understand the circumstances surrounding carnivore conflict. This information will allow our research team and the community to develop management strategies to mitigate conflict between the Maasai and large predators.

The Maasai community plays an integral role in the development and implementation of all research in the southern Rift Valley. Our carnivore research team employs 2 full-time, local research assistants who have an intimate understanding of human-wildlife interactions in Olkiramatian and Shompole. We also work closely with the Resource Assessor program, which consists of 7 Maasai men collecting natural resource data for their community, the community game scouts, and the Kenya Wildlife Service to collectively examine this rich ecosystem. We meet regularly with local leaders and members of the community to incorporate current conservation concerns in our work and maintain open communications between our research team and the community.