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Wildlife Conservation & Political Ecology

Explore the balance between ecological concerns and socioeconomic objectives in the vast wilderness expanses of northern Tanzania.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Aug 30 – Dec 12

Program Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study conservation and ecology Tanzania?

Tanzania is a beautiful and diverse country, home to the Serengeti Plains, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Zanzibar archipelago. You’ll spend 30 nights camping in these wilderness areas to see the variety of Tanzania’s landscapes and wildlife, including lions, zebras, elephants, and a range of bird species including ostriches and Kori bustards. As you learn ecological field techniques and national park management, you’ll see how human development and population growth affect natural habitats and vice versa. You’ll learn to reframe notions of sustainability in relation to local population needs, perspectives, and values.

In addition to wildlife ecology, you will study Tanzanian history, political ecology, economics, and current events. You’ll learn how to integrate both social science and ecological field techniques through anthropological and field ecology projects.

The program has several major in-country partners: Sokoine University of Agriculture, the College of African Wildlife Management-Mweka, Klub Afriko Cultural Orientation Center, and the host communities. Many students have returned to work with these partners in future endeavors.


  • Spend time at Randilen Wildlife Management Area, Tarangire, Mkomazi, and Serengeti Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Mazumbai Forest Reserve.
  • Speak with local communities to understand issues of human-wildlife conflict, deforestation, agriculture, gender, culture, and population growth.
  • Explore conservation through multiple lenses.
  • Network for your academic and professional careers.


Previous college-level coursework or background in environmental studies, ecology, biology, sociology, anthropology or related fields, as assessed by SIT.

program map


Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem

You will explore the fragmented ecosystem of two national parks, Lake Manyara and Tarangire. Tarangire National Park is famous for its many African elephants and baobab trees. Depending on the season, the 1,100-square-mile park is home to diverse wildlife species including threatened and endangered species such as ebony trees, African wild dogs, gerenuk, elephants, and more. The Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem gives an opportunity to examine the western conservation model of national parks and the ways various ethnic groups interact in their landscapes.

Randilen Wildlife Management Area

You will visit Randilen, a community-owned wildlife management area governed by the local Maasai, which has been set aside, to improve their lives and ensure their children’s futures. The Maasai community protects this unique area so that it continues to support the people and wildlife that depend on it. This key area provides additional food and habitat, and features peaceful coexistence, in particular between elephants and people.

Serengeti-Ngorongoro Ecosystem

You will go on a seven-day safari through the 25,000-square-kilometer Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem. Serengeti National Park is home to a large and diverse population of wildlife including the “big five”: lions, leopards, elephants, black rhinoceros, and African buffalo. You you will have an opportunity to visit the western corridor to see wildebeests, zebras, elands, and gazelles, as well as giant Nile crocodiles. You will also visit the Ngorongoro volcanic crater, where tourism has had a profound impact on the Maasai. The Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem also includes Oldupai Gorge, the cradle of human life and home to the most famous archaeological site in east Africa. Spend a night at Mto wa Mbu village before you visit Ngorongoro, a cross-cultural melting pot with more than 100 languages and customs. The village is located in northern Tanzania, 120 kilometers from the town of Arusha. While at Mto wa Mbu you will visit village farms, discover what the villagers grow and how they do it, learn about Makonde carving, and enjoy traditional dance.

Mkomazi National Park

Explore a breathtaking virgin park located in northern Tanzania within the Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions. Mkomazi borders Tsavo West National Park in northern Kenya and lies about 120 kilometers east of Moshi town. The park is in the Mkomazi-Tsavo ecosystem, which is the second largest trans-boundary ecosystem in East Africa.

The park is rich in mammal species including the big five. More than 450 species of birds have been recorded there. The park is a vital refuge for two highly endangered species, the charismatic black rhino, and the sociable African wild dog, both of which were successfully reintroduced in the 1990s. (Black rhino are restricted to a fenced sanctuary to ensure their safety.) Mkomazi National Park is among the few protected areas in Tanzania with a large and visible population of gerenuk and a massive concentration of Beisa Oryx.

Mazumbai Forest Reserve

You will spend seven days  in Mazumbai Forest Reserve. An evergreen rain forest  ranging in elevation from 1,300 to 1,900 meters above sea level, it is located in Lushoto District in the West Usambara Mountains. This is one of the best examples of pristine rain forest  remaining in East Africa. The forest not only serves as a sanctuary for rare and endemic plant and animal species in the Usambara Mountains, but also provides water catchment essential to the surrounding human population. The forest is owned and managed by Sokoine University of Agriculture.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Apply language skills confidently and function independently both in formal and informal settings, particularly in homestays and during the Independent Study Project period. 
  • Examine the genesis of wildlife conservation approaches, their associated challenges, and how they have changed the current use of natural resources by the community and impacted their conservation.  
  • Articulate the ways resource use is organized and transmitted through particular social relations and how they impact the resources in an environment. 
  • Recognize the plurality of positions, perceptions, interests, and rationalities in relation to the environment.  
  • Investigate the complex and deep ways in which the dynamics of asymmetrical social and political power affect ecological systems. 
  • Compare and contrast social science and natural science research methodologies with emphasis placed on critical cultural, human, and environmental analysis and ethical considerations in working with study subjects. 
  • Apply appropriate basic statistics to analyze and present data and compose and deliver an original interpretation of Independent Study Project findings with professional proficiency. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Wildlife ecology
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  • Conservation, environmental issues, and national park management
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  • Life and culture, history, politics/economics, and current events
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  • Relationships between socioeconomic objectives, political ecology and ecological parameters, and cultural transitions from multi-scale/actor perspectives

Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology Seminar

Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology Seminar – syllabus
(ENVI3000 / 4 credits)

An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, examining the relationships between socioeconomic objectives, political ecology and ecological parameters, and cultural transitions from multi scale/actor perspectives in various Tanzanian landscapes. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as the Sokoine University of Agriculture, the College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka, The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, the College of African Wildlife Management, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, and various nongovernmental organizations.


Beginning Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH1004-1504 / 4 credits)

Intermediate Kiswahili – syllabus
(SWAH2004-2504 / 4 credits)

Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive classes, with further language practice during homestays, lectures, and excursions.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 4 credits)

A course in environmental research methods and ethics concerning both the social and natural sciences. The focus is on learning how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report social and ecological data to critically understand and evaluate program-related environmental issues. Topics include an introduction to the Independent Study Project; environmental field study ethics; and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. Specific qualitative field study methods include designing research projects; writing a research proposal; interviewing; surveys; participatory rural appraisal techniques; maintaining a field study journal; and data set analysis. Specific ecological field study methods include pitfall traps, mist and sweep netting, micro- and macro-habitat analysis; wildlife population sampling and analysis; fauna and flora identification; animal behavior; geographic information systems and modeling; and statistical analysis of data sets.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in Arusha, Moshi, or surrounding areas or, with program approval, in other parts of Tanzania.

Sample Independent Study Projects:

  • Man v.s. Wild: An analysis of language used regarding human-wildlife conflict in the Kibale National Park Community, Western Region, Uganda
  • Music fusion as a sign of global influence: Comparing insect diversity by habitat type in Manyara Ranch
  • Harvesting the Truth about Salt Mining: An assessment of the factors and demographics that influence women to become salt miners
  • An assessment of terrestrial Decapoda diversity across three ecological zones in Mida Creek, Kenya
  • Examining factors associated with BCG and Poliomyelitis vaccination coverage in Tanzanian and Kenyan children aged 12 to 23 months using DHS surveys
  • Raising Baboons: Analyzing the adult-infant interactions within olive baboon troops at Manyara Ranch in Tanzania
  • The impact of girls’ education on their perceptions of their future in Arusha and Longido, Tanzania
  • Analyzing and comparing theories of gender dynamics within human, bonobo, and chimpanzee social structures
  • A review of the history of African wild dog population and causes of their decline in Serengeti Ecosystem, 1970 – 2020
  • Ecological and economic benefits and risks of using botanical insecticides in Tanzanian farms
  • Narratives and politics of climate resilience in Ushongo Village, Tanzania

Note: Because of restrictions on fieldwork in Tanzania, you should expect to spend all or most of the Independent Study Project outside the boundaries of Tanzania’s national parks. In addition, students are not able to study any topic that relates to any activity that is illegal in Tanzania. This includes poaching.

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.



You will spend three weeks living with a family in the peri-urban community of Ngaramtoni. This village, about 10 kilometers from Arusha town, is high on the slopes of Mt. Meru. Accommodations here vary, from wattle-and-daub homes to those with electricity. Families range from two-parent professional households (such as veterinarians, teachers, and doctors) to those headed by single-parent subsistence farmers. While Mweka village is about 15 kilometers from Moshi town, is at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Accommodations at Mweka village vary, from wattle-and-daub homes to those with electricity. Families range from two-parent professional households (such as veterinarians, lecturers, nurses, and doctors) to single-parent subsistence farmers.

Other Accommodations

Hostels, private homes, small hotels, and more than 25 nights of camping

Career Paths

Students on this program represent many different colleges, universities, and majors. Many have gone on to do work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Alumni of this program are working with:

  • Princeton in Africa in the Usambara Mountains

  • An environmental NGO in Zanzibar

  • Ethiopian National Parks Service at Simien National Park

  • School for Field Studies in Tanzania and Kenya

  • The Peace Corps in Gambia, Chad, and Kenya

Faculty & Staff

Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation & Political Ecology

Oliver Nyakunga, PhD bio link
Oliver Nyakunga, PhD
Academic Director
Beatrice Kimaro bio link
Beatrice Kimaro
Kiswahili Language Coordinator
Mercy Felix Kamnde (Mama Juni) bio link
Mercy Felix Kamnde (Mama Juni)
Office Manager
Oscar Paschal Nyakunga bio link
Oscar Paschal Nyakunga
Academic Coordinator
Kaiza Rutachwamangyo Kaganzi bio link
Kaiza Rutachwamangyo Kaganzi
Research Assistant
Francis Makari bio link
Francis Makari
Wildlife Expert
Mwima Arbogast Maugo bio link
Mwima Arbogast Maugo
Wildlife and Cultural Expert

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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