Monday 21 March 2016

'Wild-ID' tracking technology highlights vulnerability of wildebeest migration

Date: March 18, 2016
Source: Dartmouth College

Recent efforts to combat habitat fragmentation and poaching have temporarily stabilized wildebeest populations in northern Tanzania, but this iconic migrating species of the African savannah remains vulnerable, a Dartmouth College-led team has found using an unusual wildlife photo-identification tracking technology developed at Dartmouth.

The findings appear in the journal Biological Conservation.

The annual wildebeest migration in East Africa is one of the largest and longest-distance mammal migrations on Earth. An estimated 1.3 million wildebeest travel round-trip between protected areas in Tanzania and Kenya to coincide with the seasonal patterns of rainfall and grass growth. Wildlife migration requires large connected landscapes and access to seasonally available resources, but human development -- such as roads, livestock fences, farms, suburban settlements and energy infrastructure -- has fragmented migration corridors in many terrestrial ecosystems around the world.

In eastern and southern Africa, habitat fragmentation has coincided with widespread declines in the abundance and geographic range of ungulate populations. As the number and permeability of migration routes decrease, migratory animals have fewer foraging options. In northern Tanzania, migratory wildebeest in the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem, a savannah-woodland ecosystem that supports one of the most diverse communities of migratory ungulates in the world, have experienced a gradual loss of connectivity between seasonal ranges and undergone fluctuations in abundance over time. Similar patterns have played out elsewhere in Africa.

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