Wildebeest census in Serengeti ecosystem kicks off

05May 2018
Edward Qorro
ARUSHA
The Guardian
Wildebeest census in Serengeti ecosystem kicks off

THE wildebeest census within the Serengeti ecosystem is underway.

Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Director General Dr Simon Mduma

Counting of the migratory animals comes months after completion of photographing of the animals.

Speaking here yesterday, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Director General Dr Simon Mduma disclosed that the process of counting the wildebeest inside the ecosystem would last for three months.

The process, which will also involve wildlife experts and researchers from within and outside the country, will ascertain the number of the migratory animals in the ecosystem.

This year’s exercise will employ various ways of conducting the herds’ census including the use of satellite images, he said.

One of the researchers who will undertake the wildebeest census, Dr Grant Hopcraft from Glasgow University, said they had captured 7,500 images of the animals before starting counting them.

According to Dr Hopcraft, a small aircraft was used in conducting the census in the area.

“The exercise has gone well without any hitches as we prepare for the real counting of the wildebeest,” he said.

Other researchers who will participate in the counting include Prof Jason Matthiopoulos, Dan Haydom, and Markus Borner, who are all said to be knowledgeable with the ecosystem.

Dr Hopcraft was categorical that the animal images were due to be taken to Zooniverse, a citizen science web portal.

This year’s count has been sponsored by the Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCF) to the tune of Sh100million.

For his part, Serengeti National Park Principal Tourism Promotion Officer Susuma Kusekwa said the census aimed at establishing the actual number of the animals in the ecosystem with a view to taking necessary steps to promote conservation in the area.

TAWIRI has since 1958 been conducting census in the ecosystem. In 2015, the number of the migratory animals in the ecosystem was estimated to be 1.3million