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Summary

The object of this paper is to elucidate the principles involved in the utilization of natural grasslands by an indigenous community of animals. The studies were carried out in the Rukwa valley during a period of fourteen years and it is suggested that the results are applicable to other similar ecological areas.

The various types of grassland and pasture which occur are described, and their ecology and seasonal development are discussed in relation to the climate and drainage in the valley. The incidence of fire is recorded and its influence is compared with the effects of grazing.

The utilization of the pastures by herbivorous animals is described, and it is explained how grazing pressure results in pasture rejuvenation which is manifest by the development of a grazing mosaic. It is shown that a sequence of animals, heavier ones followed by lighter ones, use the different pastures in rotation during the year and as a consequence alternate periods of optimum use and rest occur, and the harmful effects of over-grazing do not appear.

The species of animals which form the Rukwa valley grazing community are listed and the ecological stresses which they experience in a changeable environment are noted. Examples are quoted to support the view that dry periods favour the fauna whereas extremely wet ones are unfavourable. It is shown how the ability of the animals to establish biotic pressure on the pastures enables them to become rehabilitated even though conditions remain unfavourable.

It is opined that if the same principles are made use of in game management schemes elsewhere, successful conservation of both grasslands and animals is likely to be achieved.