The Serengeti ecosystem is the traditional homeland of the Maasai, who have lived in harmony with wildlife for centuries. Many of them were moved from what is now the Serengeti National Park in 1959 to live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a multiple use region that mixes human settlement with wildlife.
To the west, the villages and towns of other groups of people dot the perimeter. The density of population is shown in the map below.
Recent years have witnessed growing conflicts over the nature of the land use, proper governance, concessions given to private firms for hunting blocks, human rights issues, and compensation for those who are displaced to make room for wildlife.
The balance between natural areas and wildlife on the one hand, and human welfare and development on the other, is a critical and difficult calculation. It not easy to convince a poor farmer that open land and wildlife are more important than his own family’s needs. In Tanzania, this issue is more prominent because of the sheer size of the protected areas, representing more than 25% of the country…and the population is four times what it was at independence.
Some of these issue seem to be coming to a head. In the coming months and years, the sustainability of the Serengeti National Park, surrounding wildlife reserves, and the conservation areas where humans and wildlife coexist, will be affected by decisions taken now. How the government of Tanzania and other interested groups respond to the human equation is vital to the health of the Serengeti ecosystem.
In the Shadow of the Serengeti. The Nation. June 2010
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