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Human pressure on the Serengeti’s fringes threatens the wildlife within

12 / 04 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Every year, millions of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras migrate between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, in one of the most iconic wildlife shows on the planet. Preserving this great migration was one of the reasons why almost 40,000 square kilometers (15,400 square miles) in East Africa were designated as protected areas in the 1950s. Communities such as the Maasai, who had lived in the region for hundreds of years, were evicted and forced to relocate. The impact of that controversial move is still felt today. Now, new research suggests that simply creating protected areas and keeping humans away from them might not be enough to preserve biodiversity. A study published in March in Science shows that the presence of livestock at the edges of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is pushing wildlife away from the margins. As a result, wild species are becoming “squeezed” into the core of the protected areas. In one of the regions analyzed, for instance, wildlife numbers within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of the boundary dropped by 50 to 75 percent between the 1970s and the 2000s. Human activities are already having an impact on the great migration. GPS data collected over the past 20 years indicate that wildebeests now avoid the margins of protected areas. Instead, they’ve started to graze in more internal areas, with dire consequences for the ecosystem. Changing dynamics Lions in Tanzania. Image by Sue Palminteri/Mongabay. Vegetation, dry and wet seasons, fire, and the migration of grazing…

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