Animal movement in a pastoralist population in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem in Kenya and implications for pathogen spread and control

George P. Omondi, Vincent Obanda, Kimberly VanderWaal, John Deen, Dominic A. Travis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Livestock movements are important drivers for infectious disease transmission. However, paucity of such data in pastoralist communities in rangeland ecosystems limits our understanding of their dynamics and hampers disease surveillance and control. The aim of this study was to investigate animal movement networks in a pastoralist community in Kenya, and assess network-based strategies for disease control. We used network analysis to characterize five types of between-village animal movement networks. We then evaluated implications of these networks for disease spread and control by quantifying topological changes in the network associated with targeted and random removal of nodes. To construct these networks, data were collected using standardized questionnaires (N = 165 households) from communities living within the Maasai Mara Ecosystem in southwestern Kenya. Our analyses show that the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR), a protected wildlife area, was critical for maintaining village connectivity in the agistment network (dry season grazing), with MMNR-adjacent villages being highly utilized during the dry season. In terms of disease dynamics, the network-based basic reproduction number, R0, was sufficient to allow disease invasion in all the five networks, and removal of villages based on degree or betweenness was not efficient in reducing R0. However, we show that villages with high degree or betweenness may play an important role in maintaining network connectivity, which may not be captured by assessment of R0 alone. Such villages may function as potential “firebreaks.” For example, targeted removal of highly connected village nodes was more effective at fragmenting each network than random removal of nodes, indicating that network-based targeting of interventions such as vaccination could potentially disrupt transmission pathways in the ecosystem. In conclusion, this work shows that animal movements have the potential to shape patterns of disease transmission in this ecosystem, with targeted interventions being a practical and efficient measure for disease control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105259
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota funds , and fellowship grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number D43TW009345. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Animal movement
  • Disease control
  • Fragmentation index
  • Network analysis
  • Pastoralist Mobility
  • Pathogen spread

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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