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Consequences of integrating livestock and wildlife in an African savanna


Globally, most wildlife lives outside of protected areas, creating potential conflicts between the needs of wildlife and the needs of humans. East African savannas epitomize this challenge, providing habitat for wildlife such as giraffes and elephants as well as for people and their livestock. Conflicts over land use are common, leading to the assumption of a necessary trade-off between wildlife and livestock management. Here, we show that the integration of livestock and wildlife in a large region of central Kenya can have ecological benefits, reducing the abundance of ticks and improving forage. These ecological benefits can be complemented by economic ones when property owners derive income both from wildlife through tourism and from livestock through meat and dairy production. Our results suggest that under specific ecological, economic and social conditions, integrating livestock with wildlife can provide benefits for the environment and for human well-being in African savannas.

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Fig. 1: Tick abundance in relation to management.
Fig. 2: Effects of ecological integration of livestock and wildlife on vegetation.
Fig. 3: Effects of livestock on wildlife abundance.
Fig. 4: Diversity of income sources based on economic classification (relative proportion of income derived from livestock versus wildlife on each property). See main text for details.
Fig. 5: Ecological classification (ln wildlife/livestock ratio) versus economic classification for each of the 23 properties surveyed.

Data availability

A summary table containing data used in these analyses is provided in the Supplementary Information (Extended Data Table 7).


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We thank H. Kiai, K. Age, A. Mariki, J. Keesing Ostfeld and numerous enumerators for assistance with data collection, and V. Obiero for assistance with data entry. We extend our great appreciation to the owners, managers, staff members and residents of the properties we surveyed for allowing us to work on their land, and for welcoming and assisting us. We thank the management and staff of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mpala Research Centre and Laikipia Wildlife Foundation for their hospitality and for their facilitation of this work. This research was supported by the United States National Science Foundation (Coupled Natural and Human Systems award 1313822).

Author information




B.F.A., F.K., R.S.O., R.C-K. and H.T. designed the study. S.O., B.F.A. and F.K. collected the ecological data. H.T. and S.A.W. developed the survey questions for property owners and managers and S.H. conducted the interviews. T.H. assisted in the field and identified ticks. L.P.F. conducted the pathogen identification using a protocol developed by B.F.A. and L.P.F. R.C-K., V.K., C.M.W., B.R.B. and S.A.W. assisted with data preparation and interpretation. F.K. analysed the data and F.K., B.F.A. and R.S.O. wrote the manuscript, which was edited and approved by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Felicia Keesing.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–6, Supplementary Tables 1–7

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Keesing, F., Ostfeld, R.S., Okanga, S. et al. Consequences of integrating livestock and wildlife in an African savanna. Nat Sustain 1, 566–573 (2018).

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