Serengeti Field Diaries

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August 26, 2015
Party Crasher

A herd of wildebeests employs a strength-in-numbers defensive strategy to face down an approaching female lion in Tanzania.

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November 9, 2011
Sensa ya Watu na Mbwa (Human and Dog Census)

“Sasa, hi ni GPS…kama simu.” (Now, this is a GPS…kind of like a cell phone.) Chunde is explaining to the village leaders we’re working with as part of my domestic-dog demography research what a GPS unit is and how to use it.

Field Assistant Chunde Bigambo trains local leaders how to census people—and dogs—in their region.
October 4, 2011
Meals in the Field

My last post inspired a reader to ask what I eat while I’m in the field. Excellent question! While in Tanzania, I try to eat as much of the amazing fresh fruit as possible, if it’s available. Typically during this time of year (the dry season), there isn’t much of a fruit selection in the villages other than some bananas and tomatoes.

September 21, 2011
Back to Buyubi!

My field assistant, Chunde Bigambo, and I are back in Buyubi Village, a control village (a village where dogs are not vaccinated). We’re tracking all the dogs we marked here last year by visiting our study households and checking all dogs for ear tattoos and microchips.

We need to be able to identify each dog individually because many dogs not only look similar, they also have the same name!

September 12, 2011
Nimerudi! (I Have Returned!)

Here we go again! I’m back in Tanzania gearing up for my second field season studying free-roaming domestic dog population dynamics west of Serengeti National Park. I’m excited to see how all my study dogs are doing as well as reconnect with all my village friends.

This year I am revisiting the same households I collected data in last year. In 2010, I marked more than 800 dogs with ear tattoos and microchips so I can follow their life histories (life expectancy, survivorship and reproductive rates) for four years.

April 4, 2011
A Grim Reminder

I recently experienced a sad reminder of the importance of the Serengeti Health Initiative. On a drive out of the Serengeti, whilst passing through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), I discovered a spotted hyena lying out in the midday sun having convulsions by the side of the road. It passed away soon after. Through the prompt action of the NCA veterinary team, samples were taken that have since tested positive for the rabies virus.

February 15, 2011
Nangale Vaccination Day

The road to Nangale village was filled with people walking their dogs, tugging uncertain puppies along on palm fiber leashes. If this were the bike path along Lake Shore Drive, this wouldn’t be so surprising. However, I was in Tanzania studying free-ranging domestic dogs that typically don’t get daily walks—they receive plenty of exercise herding, guarding livestock and protecting their households.

January 25, 2011
Mvua Atakuja (Rain is Coming)

I was in Nangale village at the start of rainy season, continuing to mark dogs for my dog demography study and there, was a sense of urgency in the air. “Mvua atakuja,” said Mayenga, the Nangale village chairman, as he surveyed the horizon. It was a clear cloudless day, and I had just stumbled upon an interesting spider as we were on our way to another household in search of dogs.

December 2, 2010
Aungurumapo Simba, Mcheza Nani?

or, "When the Lion Roars, Who Will Dare to Play (or Pack)?"

So the plan was to spend the day packing and gearing up for the next set of villages where we’ll be conducting our research, but we ran into this pride of lions enjoying their freshly obtained dinner. We couldn’t help but observe them for almost an hour, especially since we will be away for quite some time during the next leg of my research.

November 16, 2010
Bye Bye Buyubi!

“Nashukuru sana sana!” Thank you very, very much! It was my last day in Buyubi village, and we were sharing some farewell Fantas and Coca Colas at the local restaurant. I toasted my Fanta to John Kingu, the Buyubi Village Executive Officer, for not only permitting me to conduct research in Buyubi but also for all the assistance he and the other village leaders provided during our domestic dog demography research here.

October 6, 2010
Dog Demo-What?

What exactly is dog demography? Why am I traipsing through rural villages in Tanzania micro-chipping and tattooing poor unsuspecting dogs? I sometimes find myself asking this very question, especially on a really long, hot, 90-degree, dusty, uncooperative doggie day.

I am studying domestic dogs in Tanzania to determine the effect of vaccination programs on dog demography. Since 2003, dogs have been vaccinated for rabies and distemper in villages surrounding Serengeti National Park.

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