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Wengström, Åsa, 2009. How Maasai settlements affect the grazing habits of the Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. First cycle, G2E. Skara: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

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Abstract

With a growing human population as well as a changing lifestyle, the conflict of wildlife and humans is intensifying. In Kenya, Maasais and their livestock have for a long time coexisted with wildlife, but an adjustment to privately own land and cultivation might rapidly change the terms for this coexistence. To understand how the Maasais and their livestock affect the wildlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the surrounding area, this study was undertaken. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how hippos are concerned.

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The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is one of the biggest herbivores, and has a very specialized feeding strategy. To avoid the high temperature and solar radiation during daytime, they stay in or close to water; in wetlands, rivers or lakes. When the sun sets and temperature drops they leave the watercourses to graze through the night.

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The hippo is considered vulnerable, and the IUCN Hippo Specialist Group has found three primary threats to the common hippo; conflict with humans over preferable areas, export of hippo teeth, and poaching. The biggest threat to hippos is believed to be loss of water habitat because of human activity, especially in conjunction with droughts. This thesis also wants to high light how hippos could be affected by humans, not only in water by damming or similar actions but on land while grazing.

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The study was carried out in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the adjoining group ranch, Koiyaki GR, in south-western Kenya. The area studied was covered ground rich in grass, both within and outside the park; hence the effect of livestock grazing was evident. The observations were conducted during December 2003 and May-June 2004, because of the great difference in grass quality and grass availability between the seasons.

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Sadly, the most striking about the hippos is the lack of research, and in this thesis a number of future research areas are pointed out. This is in hope to better understand the grazing habits and life style of this megaherbivore, especially how and where they chose to graze. With this investigated, more secure conclusions can be drawn of how Maasai life affects the hippo population in Maasai Mara. When this is known, predictions can be made for how hippos will be affected of a changing Maasai lifestyle.

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The results of the study show that hippos do avoid land intensively grazed by livestock, though they are present in the area. Even though seen in the river close to settlements, they were not observed on the nearby transects. This could be interpreted as hippos do not avoid the presence of neither people nor livestock, but they chose to graze at other sites. Evidently, hippos are nocturnal grazers and no hippos were recorded on transects between 06:00 and 18:00. In both seasons, the majority of animals were observed before midnight, indicating that hippos continue to grass outside of the study area.

Main title:How Maasai settlements affect the grazing habits of the Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Authors:Wengström, Åsa
Supervisor:Jung, Jens
Examiner:Loberg, Jenny
Series:Studentarbete (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för husdjurens miljö och hälsa)
Volume/Sequential designation:255
Year of Publication:2009
Level and depth descriptor:First cycle, G2E
Student's programme affiliation:VK002 Ethology and Animal Welfare - Bachelor's Programme 180 HEC
Department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:hippopotamus, hippo, maasai mara, grazing habits, human wildlife relationship
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-6-56
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-6-56
Subjects:Animal ecology
Language:English
Deposited On:03 Jul 2009 11:38
Metadata Last Modified:20 Apr 2012 14:09

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