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Solutions for conflict with lions

Solutions for conflict with lions

This cow has been fitted with a GPS collar to assist researchers to determine herding patterns in the area.

DR ANDREW LOVERIDGE AND BRENT STAPELKAMP - Hwange Lion Research, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University

Since 2007 Hwange Lion Research (HLR) has been working to understand the circumstances under which communities come into conflict with wild carnivores. By understanding the problem we hope to be able to assist people to limit the conflict, while at the same time protect wildlife as a valuable natural asset.The RP-PCP and AHEAD-GLTFCA 2014 conference, held at the Painted Dog Conservation centre in Hwange, was an important gathering for researchers to discuss and share their findings in the context of wildlife and communities living side by side.

Conflict with wildlife imposes significant costs on communities living adjacent to protected areas, and erodes their willingness to tolerate problem-causing species. Equally, retaliatory killing of wild animals can put threatened species at risk and impede efforts to conserve habitat corridors in the landscape.

The HLR team, in collaboration with Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, has studied human-lion conflict at three sites adjacent to protected areas in Matabeleland North province. Data was collected through collation of conflict incident reports, questionnaire surveys and data-loggers on cattle to determine herding patterns.

From 2007, nearly 2000 livestock depredation incidents involving large predators were recorded, of which just over half were due to lions (other species included spotted hyaena, leopard and cheetah). Financial losses amounted to $473 per household affected per year, though this was significantly outweighed by losses to livestock diseases.

The research found livestock depredation by lions to be strongly seasonal, with more incidents occurring in the wet season. Explanations for this are twofold. Due to widespread water in this season, natural prey is dispersed and availability is lower at this time.

Equally, to protect wet season crops, cattle are herded closer to protected area boundaries and further from homesteads, increasing vulnerability to predation.

Solutions to mitigate conflict should take seasonal vulnerability of livestock to predators into account. Mobile bomas and communal herding, alongside a ‘lion guardian’ programme, are currently being tested in an attempt to reduce livestock losses to communities living on protected area boundaries.

More from this issue:
ZT17 (June 2014) - Main Menu
ZT17 (June 2014) - Full Content Listing

More on transfrontier parks from this issue of the Zambezi Traveller:
Towards one health
After the fences came down
Between man and nature
Solutions for conflict with lions
Pomp and ceremony at KAZA event
Tourism, beef or both?
Simalaha gains momentum
Looking to the future