Weekly Update: Ruaha African Buffalo Project Update

buffalo updae2 In August, SCI Foundation partnered with the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis (WHC) to investigate the decline of African buffalo in Ruaha National Park (RNP), Tanzania. The extent of the decline is not yet understood. Monitoring health and movement of collared buffalo throughout the year will help researchers identify areas of increased risk of disease, poaching and other factors that could cause a decline. The buffalo are being tested for several diseases, including bovine tuberculosis (bTB), a bacterial disease often found in cattle. In May 2015, samples from 6 of the 10 collared buffaloes were tested for bovine tuberculosis and exposure to Brucella, harmful bacteria that cause brucellosis.  One buffalo tested positive for bovine tuberculosis and one buffalo tested positive for brucellosis. Monitoring the buffalo’s movements have revealed some interesting information. Researchers suspected that herds, which congregate around the Great Ruaha River during dry season, split up and migrate to a remote high plateau when the rains begin. However, researchers learned that the buffalo herds inhabit fairly distinct areas of the park. The buffalo utilize areas previously considered unused by this species, they mostly avoid the roads, and they leave the valley in the wet season and migrate up on to the plateau. Over the next two years researchers will continue to follow the herd’s movements to learn more about their behavior. Through this project, the WHC seeks to add to the available disease information and examine population dynamics. Understanding the movements and herd dynamics of buffalo will better inform wildlife managers in and around RNP on how to better conserve their buffalo population. Stay tuned for more updates as this project progresses!

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