• The Tarangire Ecosystem


    The Tarangire Ecosystem

    in northern Tanzania covers an area of approximately 25,000 square kilometres dominated by Acacia woodlands, Commiphora bushland and open grassland. It is key habitat for many East African savanna mammal species.
  • WCS Tarangire Elephant Project


    WCS Tarangire Elephant Project

    has been studying the elephant population in Tarangire since 1993, making this the second longest elephant study in Africa. Over 1,000 elephants have been individually identified and are monitored monthly to assess the status of the population.
  • Tanzania mammal atlas database


    Tanzania mammal atlas database

    WCS Tanzania has set up the first mammal atlas database for Tanzania with over 100,000 records so far.
  • Conservation Easements


    Conservation Easements

    WCS works with local communities, tour operators, and conservation partners to set up Conservation Easements. This model safeguards both wildlife habitat and traditional livestock grazing areas, while contributing to local livelihoods.

  • Customary Rights of Occupancy


    Customary Rights of Occupancy

    WCS helps communities develop land use plans that designate areas for livestock activities, thus safeguarding livelihoods against agricultural encroachment as well as ensuring wildlife dispersal areas and migration corridors are preserved.

  • Research



    WCS has carried out camera trap surveys in 25 sites. Data collected has contributed to the mammal atlas database.

  • Southern/ Highlands
  • Ruaha/ Katavi
  • Tarangire/ Ecosystem
  • Zanzibar/ Forests
  • Marine Program

The Tarangire Elephant Project based in Arusha and Tarangire National Park uses research and training to ensure that local communities, TANAPA and other partners have the information and resources needed to sustainably manage and benefit from this ecosystem. The project also aims to assure the conservation of its ecosystem services and key wildlife migration routes through a novel system of ‘conservation easements’.


The Tarangire ecosystem stretches from the Tanzania-Kenya border in the north to the Maasai Steppe in the south and is bordered to the west by the eastern Rift Escarpment. The area comprises a diverse array of habitats and is home to important populations of African wild dog and fringe-eared oryx, as well as the last remaining stronghold of the Eastern white-bearded wildebeest.

The largest protected area within the ecosystem is Tarangire National Park, which covers approximately 2,600 square kilometres and is best known for its large herds of elephants, which can be seen in groups of several hundred individuals along the main river valley during the early wet season.

Migration corridors and dispersal areas outside protected areas are crucial to the Tarangire ecosystem. During the early 1990’s as many as 55,000 zebra and wildebeest migrated in and out of Tarangire National Park on a seasonal basis, making this one of the largest migrations of wildlife in East Africa. These migrations are driven by water availability and variations in the mineral content in the soil. Tarangire National Park has very low concentrations of phosphorus, an essential mineral for many lactating female animals, which causes the large ungulates (namely elephants, zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo) to migrate to phosphorus-rich grazing areas outside the Park during the wet season. When the ephemeral water in these dispersal areas dries up, the wildlife returns to the National Park. As a result of these unusual mineral gradients, access to dispersal areas outside the Park is essential; if the large ungulate species were restricted to Tarangire’s less nutritious grasslands, their populations would eventually collapse.


Important migration routes surrounding Tarangire National Park are under increasing threat. A rapid increase in agricultural activity around the Park has led to the loss of five of the nine main migration routes in and out of Tarangire, and a further two corridors are severely degraded. The majority of the land in these dispersal areas belongs to the pastoral Maasai communities, who do not traditionally hunt wild animals. The continued tolerance and stewardship of the local communities towards wildlife on their land is therefore essential for the long-term conservation of the ecosystem.


The Tarangire Elephant Project works with local communities, tour operators, and conservation partners to protect the main calving grounds for wildlife in the Simanjiro plains. Following an agreement between tour operators and village leaders, two important villages established Conservation Easements on their land that only allows livestock and wildlife use and prohibits all agriculture and permanent settlement in the designated area. In return, the participating villages receive an annual remuneration from the tour operators. Local villagers have been trained and employed as Village Game Scouts and conduct wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching patrols. This model safeguards both wildlife habitat and traditional livestock grazing areas, while contributing additional revenue to the village. While working in collaboration with other conservation partners, WCS assisted several communities in the ecosystem to develop land use plans and designate areas exclusively for pastoral livestock activities. These zones are protected through Community Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCRO), and help safeguard pastoral livelihoods in the ecosystem that are threatened by land loss to agricultural encroachment. Crucially, this land zoning also ensures that wildlife dispersal areas and migration corridors are kept open for wildlife use. Thus far, over 300,000 acres of land have been set aside for exclusive pastoral use through this initiative.

The Tarangire Elephant Project began studying the elephant population in Tarangire in 1993, making this the second longest elephant study in Africa. Over 1,000 elephants have been individually identified and are monitored monthly to assess the status of the population. The project has also investigated a broad range of topics including elephant demography, behaviour, genetics and endocrinology, and was the first study to monitor faecal hormones of wild elephants. Several individuals in the population have been fitted with GPS radio collars to better understand elephant movement patterns in the ecosystem, and the project has supported two graduate studies examining methods of ameliorating human elephant conflict on community lands adjacent to the Park.

The intensive monitoring of known individuals allows the project to develop a highly accurate assessment of changes in the population, and can rapidly alert Tarangire National Park authorities to any problems, such as poaching. Although elephant poaching in northern Tanzania has been far more limited than in other parts to the country, it is a threat for which we are constantly vigilant, particularly in the more isolated parts of the ecosystem. WCS hired local village game scouts to patrol community lands outside the Park to monitor wildlife populations and help combat any poaching. The scouts were trained to use the SMART law enforcement monitoring system, and collaborate with both the wildlife authorities and village game scouts from other parts of the ecosystem to control illegal activities.

The project conducted a four-year study to assess methods to improve rangeland quality across the ecosystem, and ran trial experiments to test how different types of degraded rangelands could be managed to recover productivity.

WCS teamed up with several other partner organizations to form the Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (NTRI). This initiative aims to improve information sharing among the organizations, standardize data collection protocols, and streamline conservation efforts to be able to respond more rapidly and effectively to threats to the ecosystem.