Integrating livestock with wildlife can, under some conditions, be beneficial for both the environment and human well-being, reports a paper published online this week in Nature Sustainability. As wildlife often lose out during interactions with livestock and people, understanding such advantageous situations is vital for sustaining large animals and historic landscapes.
Globally, most wildlife live outside of protected areas, creating potential conflicts between the respective needs of wildlife and humans. East African savannas epitomize this challenge, as they provide habitats for not only elephants, giraffes and other wild species but also people and their livestock. Conflicts over land use are common, leading to the assumption that there must be an inherent trade-off between management for livestock and for wildlife.
Felicia Keesing and colleagues studied areas of land in a central Kenyan savanna, comparing outcomes among those that are wildlife oriented, livestock oriented, and integrated. They find that integrating livestock with wildlife can reduce the abundance of ticks, improve the quality of plants available for foraging, and provide income through both wildlife tourism as well as meat and dairy production. In addition, integrated areas of land did not have less-profitable livestock or tourism revenues.
As protected areas are often too small to conserve viable populations of large and mobile wildlife, these findings provide a reason for optimism about the global potential of coexistence on shared landscapes.