Seasonal space-time dynamics of cattle behavior and mobility among Maasai pastoralists in semi-arid Kenya

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This study was conducted to understand how seasonality in drylands influences the space-time dynamics of cattle behavior and mobility among pastoralist managed Zebu cattle. The study relies on the use of handmade collars holding global positioning system (GPS) units to document the spatially and temporally explicit patterns of cattle mobility, field based herd-follows to document cattle behavior, and key informant interviews to document the role of pastoral herding strategies in explaining these patterns. Data were analyzed as a function of seasonality, distance from household, time of day, and land cover zone. During the dry season, there was an unexpectedly high frequency of grazing/walking cattle behavior. This pattern is attributed to 'tracking' strategies of Maasai pastoralists resulting in movement to niche grazing areas. During the wet season a bimodal distribution of grazing behavior can be attributed to milking strategies. The study concludes that simple, low cost GPS collars are an effective and easily replicable method to help understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of cattle behavior and mobility, and patterns of cattle mobility are related to seasonal constraints. Differences between different cattle behaviors can be partly explained by cultural herding practices of Maasai pastoralists. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Behavior
  • Cattle
  • Cultural ecology
  • GPS
  • Herd mobility
  • Pastoralism
  • Seasonality
  • Tracking
  • Zebu

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