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Clarifying competition: the case of wildlife and pastoral livestock in East Africa

Bilal Butt1* and Matthew D Turner2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1041, USA

2 Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 53706, USA

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Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:9  doi:10.1186/2041-7136-2-9

Published: 28 September 2012


Contentious debates surrounding the relationship between peoples’ livelihoods and protected areas in East Africa have largely revolved around claims and counter-claims about the level of competition between pastoral livestock and wildlife. Habitat and dietary overlap are often cited as the primary mechanism by which competition occurs with both overlap and lack of overlap (displacement) used as evidence of competition. Despite the importance of this issue for the economic and environmental futures of the region, there has been little scientific progress for understanding the nature of livestock–wildlife competition in pastoral landscapes. This article seeks to add conceptual clarity to this debate by focusing attention on exploitation competition in ways that are relevant to dryland East Africa. The article begins by briefly reviewing the changing understandings of the concept of competition in ecology. Requirements of competition, as defined in the literature, are then related to the ecological characteristics of East African drylands. By demonstrating that competition necessarily occurs through vegetative responses, we argue that there is the need to clarify competition by differentiating between ‘proximate competition’ and competition that is mediated by vegetation change across seasons. The article concludes by outlining the implications of these clarifications for the management and study of livestock–wildlife interactions.

Competition; East Africa; Livestock; Parks; Pastoralism; Rangeland ecology wildlife