Skip to main content Accessibility help

Connectivity and bottlenecks in a migratory wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus population

  • Thomas A. Morrison (a1) and Douglas T. Bolger (a2)


Surprisingly little is known about the spatial dimensions of most tropical ungulate migrations, including that of wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus, a species famous for long-distance movements. Using non-invasive photographic identification of 834 adult wildebeest from 8,530 images collected over 4 years we characterize patterns of migratory connectivity throughout the northern Tarangire–Manyara Ecosystem, Tanzania. We document movements between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and northwards to the shore of Lake Natron, a straight-line distance of > 130 km. Fifty-six percent of observed movements occur outside the ecosystem's three main protected areas. We supplement photographic data with fine-scale movement data from two individuals with global positioning system collars, and identify three narrow bottlenecks, each vulnerable to human development. We discuss the possible consequences for the wildebeest population if these bottlenecks become impeded. Persistence of this migration alongside a growing human population and proposed road improvement will require additional measures to ensure that pathways remain open to wildlife movement and protected from illegal hunting.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Connectivity and bottlenecks in a migratory wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus population
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Connectivity and bottlenecks in a migratory wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus population
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Connectivity and bottlenecks in a migratory wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus population
      Available formats


Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail


Hide All
Bailey, D.K. (1993) Carbonate magmas. Journal of the Geological Society, 150, 637651.
Berger, J., Cain, S.L. & Berger, K.M. (2006) Connecting the dots: an invariant migration corridor links the Holocene to the present. Biology Letters, 2, 528531.
Berry, H.H. (1997) Aspects of wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus ecology in the Etosha National Park—a synthesis for future management. Madoqua, 20, 137148.
Bolger, D.T., Morrison, T.A., Vance, B., Lee, D. & Farid, H. (2012) Development and application of a computer-assisted system for photographic mark–recapture analysis. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 3, 813822.
Bolger, D.T., Newmark, W.D., Morrison, T.A. & Doak, D.F. (2008) The need for integrative approaches to understand and conserve migratory ungulates. Ecology Letters, 11, 6377.
Borner, M. (1985) The increasing isolation of Tarangire National Park. Oryx, 19, 9196.
Casebeer, R.L. & Koss, G.G. (1970) Food habits of wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest and cattle in Kenya Masailand. African Journal of Ecology, 8, 2536.
Crooks, K.R. & Sanjayan, M.A. (2006) Connectivity Conservation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Dobson, A.P., Borner, M., Sinclair, A.R.E., Hudson, P.J., Anderson, T.M., Bigurube, G. et al. (2010) Road must not divide the Serengeti. Nature, 467, 272273.
Estes, R. & East, R. (2009) Status of Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) in the Wild, 1967–2005. Working Paper No. 37. Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, USA.
Foley, C.A.H. & Faust, L.J. (2010) Rapid population growth in an elephant Loxodonta africana population recovering from poaching in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Oryx, 44, 205.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) (1983) Soils and Physiography Database. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Fryxell, J.M. & Sinclair, A.R.E. (1988) Causes and consequences of migration by large herbivores. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 3, 237241.
Fynn, R.W.S. & Bonyongo, M.C. (2010) Functional conservation areas and the future of Africa's wildlife. African Journal of Ecology, 49, 175188.
Georgiadis, N. (1995) Population structure of wildebeest: implications for conservation. In Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management and Conservation of an Ecosystem (eds Sinclair, A.R.E. & Arcese, P.), pp. 473484. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Goldman, M. (2003) Partitioned nature, privileged knowledge: community-based conservation in Tanzania. Development and Change, 34, 833862.
Harris, G., Thirgood, S., Hopcraft, J.G.C., Cromsight, J. & Berger, J. (2009) Global decline in aggregated migrations of large terrestrial mammals. Endangered Species Research, 7, 5576.
Hebblewhite, M. & Merrill, E.H. (2007) Multiscale wolf predation risk for elk: does migration reduce risk? Oecologia, 152, 377387.
Hijmans, R.J., Cameron, S.E., Parra, J.L., Jones, P.G. & Jarvis, A. (2005) Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International Journal of Climatology, 25, 19651978.
Holdo, R.M., Fryxell, J.M., Sinclair, A.R.E., Dobson, A. & Holt, R.D. (2011) Predicted impacts of barriers to migration on the Serengeti wildebeest population. PLoS ONE, 6, 17.
Holdo, R.M., Holt, R.D. & Fryxell, J.M. (2009) Grazers, browsers, and fire influence the extent and spatial pattern of tree cover in the Serengeti. Ecological Applications, 19, 95109.
Hopcraft, J.G.C., Olff, H. & Sinclair, A.R.E. (2010) Herbivores, resources and risks: alternating regulation along primary environmental gradients in savannas. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 25, 119128.
Lamprey, H.F. (1964) Estimation of the large mammal densities, biomass and energy exchange in the Tarangire game reserve and the Masai Steppe in Tanganyika. East African Journal of Wildlife, 2, 146.
McNaughton, M.M. (1990) Mineral nutrition and seasonal movements of African migratory ungulates. Nature, 345, 613615.
Morrison, T.A. & Bolger, D.T. (2012) Wet season range fidelity in a tropical migratory ungulate. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81, 543552.
Morrison, T.A., Yoshizaki, J., Nichols, J.D. & Bolger, D.T. (2011) Estimating survival in photographic capture–recapture studies: overcoming misidentification error. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2, 454463.
Nelson, F., Foley, C., Foley, L.S., Leposo, A., Loure, E., Peterson, D. et al. (2010) Payments for ecosystem services as a framework for community-based conservation in Northern Tanzania. Conservation Biology, 24, 7885.
Nelson, F., Nshala, R. & Rodgers, W.A. (2007) The evolution and reform of Tanzanian wildlife management. Conservation and Society, 5, 232261.
Newmark, W.D. (2008) Isolation of African protected areas. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 6, 321328.
Ogutu, J.O., Piepho, H.P., Reid, R.S., Rainy, M.E., Kruska, R.L., Worden, J.S. et al. (2010) Large herbivore responses to water and settlements in savannas. Ecological Monographs, 80, 241266.
Prins, H.H.T. (1996) Ecology and Behaviour of the African Buffalo: Social Inequality and Decision Making. Chapman & Hall, London, UK.
Prins, H.H.T. & Douglas-Hamilton, I. (1990) Stability in a multi-species assemblage of large herbivores in East Africa. Oecologia, 83, 392400.
Sachedina, H. (2008) Wildlife is our oil: conservation, livelihoods and NGOs in the Tarangire Ecosystem, Tanzania. PhD thesis. University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
Sawyer, H., Kauffman, M.J., Middleton, A., Morrison, T.A., Nielsen, R. & Wyckoff, T. (2013) A framework for understanding semi-permeable barrier effects on migratory ungulates. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50, 6878.
Sawyer, H., Kauffman, M.J., Nielson, R.M. & Horne, J.S. (2009) Identifying and prioritizing ungulate migration routes for landscape-level conservation. Ecological Applications, 19, 20162025.
Spinage, C.A. (1992) The decline of the Kalahari wildebeest. Oryx, 26, 147150.
TAWIRI (Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute) (2001) Aerial Census in the Tarangire Ecosystem. Conservation Information and Monitoring Unit, Arusha, Tanzania.
TCP (Tarangire Conservation Project) (1998) Analysis of Migratory Movements of Large Mammals and their Interactions with Human Activities in the Tarangire Area in Tanzania as a Contribution to a Conservation and Sustainable Development Strategy. Final Report. Oikos, Arusha, Tanzania.
Thirgood, S., Mosser, A., Tham, S., Hopcraft, G., Mwangomo, E., Mlengeya, T. et al. (2004) Can parks protect migratory ungulates? The case of the Serengeti wildebeest. Animal Conservation, 7, 113120.
Voeten, M.M., Van De Vijver, C., Olff, H. & Van Langevelde, F. (2010) Possible causes of decreasing migratory ungulate populations in an East African savannah after restrictions in their seasonal movements. African Journal of Ecology, 48, 169179.
Whyte, I.J. & Joubert, S.C.J. (1988) Blue wildebeest population trends in the Kruger National Park and the effects of fencing. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 18, 7887.
Wild-ID (2013) Http:// [accessed 18 October 2013].
Yanda, P.Z. & Madulu, N.F. (2003) Natural Resources Use Patterns and Poverty Alleviation Strategies in the Highlands and Lowlands of Karatu and Monduli Districts: a Study on Linkages and Environmental Implications. University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed