AfricanBioServices (Grant Agreement 641819) is NTNU’s largest EU project with a budget of close to 10 million euros. This is an EU-funded research project part of the Horizon 2020 research initiative. Horizon 2020 is the European framework programme for research and innovation that runs from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of 70 billion euros.
Photos from AfricanBioServices
AfricanBioServices started in 2015 and will run over four years. The project involves 13 partners in Africa and Europe. The main concern is how Ecosystem Services in the Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem in eastern Africa is affected by climate change, human population growth and landuse change. The official name of the project is “Linking Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functions and Services in the Serengeti-Mara Region, East Africa: Drivers of Change, Causalities and Sustainable Management Strategies”
First PhD thesis defended
On Friday 7 October, 2016, the first PhD of the AfricanBioServices project was completed at NTNU. PhD candidate Wilfred Njama Marealle from the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) who was registered as a PhD candidate at NTNU successfully defended his thesis. The title of Marealle’s PhD dissertation was “Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation Status of Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) in Tanzania”. AfricanBioServices indirectly sponsored Marealle’s final year, as NTNU used some of its overhead money to support his scholarship.
PhD on the Masai giraffe
The focus of Marealle’s thesis was on the behaviour, ecology and conservation of the Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) in Tanzania. Giraffes are the most elegant, conspicuous and tallest animals of the African savannah. The major result of his study was that the sex ratio at birth was skewed in favour of female offspring because of illegal hunting and other disturbances, primarily in areas with a high risk of illegal activities.
Individuals in areas with a high risk of illegal activities were more vigilant and had a longer flight distance than those found in low risk areas. Furthermore, males preferred to be solitary compared with females. Selous Game Reserve (SGR) had fewer singleton groups and larger groups than those in Serengeti National Park (SNP), and males formed slightly larger groups in SGR than those in SNP.
Although both study areas were highly threatened by illegal hunting from the surrounding human populations, human influence in SGR remained much higher. In both areas, the mean stress levels were high. High levels of stress in young individuals may lead to higher mortality. A detailed investigation on calf survival and a determination of the effects of female biased sex ratios on giraffe populations are recommended.