Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology

Explore the balance between ecological concerns and socioeconomic objectives in the vast wilderness expanses of northern Tanzania.

offered by SIT Study Abroad

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Please visit our website for more information. Tanzania is a beautiful and diverse country in East Africa spanning the Serengeti Plains; Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak; and the Zanzibar archipelago. The Serengeti ecosystem (approximately 25,000 square km) includes Oldupai Gorge, a formation of the Great Rift Valley system and the site of renowned early hominid fossil discoveries by Mary and Louis Leakey. The Serengeti also contains the immense Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO world heritage site and the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. The Serengeti is home to a large and diverse population of wildlife. More than 120 ethnic groups live in Tanzania, comprising tremendous cultural and linguistic diversity, though unified by a single national language — Kiswahili. Scale and Location Two key watchwords for this program are "scale" and "location." Students consider a few essential questions throughout the semester, exploring how changes in scale and location have an impact on these inquiries. To fully appreciate the diversity and complexity of this region, students are on the move, exploring the variety of natural habitats. Excursions are chosen specifically to provide a variety of locations and scale. Not Just Science In this interdisciplinary program, students realize that ecosystems are inseparable from the human ecology of the region and that issues related to development and human population growth inevitably affects the natural habitat (and vice versa). Through the Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course and program fieldwork, students learn to integrate their scientific learning with the social sciences, creating a more complete and complex picture of ecology and conservation. Supportive Partners The program has three major in-country partners: Sokoine University of Agriculture, Klub Afriko Cultural Orientation Center, and the host communities. These partners are instrumental in the success of the program, and many students have returned to work with the program’s partners in future endeavors. Independent Study Project Students spend four weeks near the end of the semester working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic of individual interest. The ISP is conducted in Arusha, Moshi, or surrounding areas, or with program approval, in other parts of Tanzania.  Sample topic areas include: Impact of tourism on the natural environment or cultures Management options in designated wildlife areas Environmental education Soil conservation and agricultural practices Arusha youths’ views on population and environment Wildlife-livestock disease interaction in the Kwakuchinja corridor Behavior of primates, e.g., Colobus guereza and olive baboons in Sagara Forest Wood use in various types of protected areas, including village forests Bio-indicator studies, e.g., birds and butterflies at various locations Perspectives on population and the environment Vegetation analysis and elephant damage at Ndarakwai Ranch Note: Because of restrictions on fieldwork in Tanzania, students should expect to spend all or most of the Independent Study Project outside the boundaries of Tanzania’s national parks.


  • Environmental Risk
  • Environmental Studies
  • Zoology & Wildlife Sciences
  • African Studies
  • Ecology
  • Biology (General)
  • Anthropology
  • Political Science


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