I would like to start off by insuring folks that this article is not written to jump on the bandwagon of what has occurred recently in the Masai Mara nor to gain publicity. It is written because attention is currently on this horrific story and its time more people need to be educated. Our work is based on facing these issues daily so why not share to create a better understanding.
The pride known as the Marsh pride, situated in the Masai Mara was recently poisoned by herders due to the either attacks on livestock or the fear of the possibility of an attack. In reality poison is generally used in African countries to exterminate predators that attempt or sometimes kill livestock. Various kinds of poison can be used (but we will not give advise on this matter) but instead; the question should be asked why? Why is the coexistence so difficult to solve between man and beast? Is it lack of education?
If you look at some westernized ‘educated’ folk you will find that a zero tolerance policy is in order if a species wanders into a village from the mountains etc. Africans just have a lot more of these ‘drifters’ moving through on a daily basis. So one could actually say some African (again not generalizing) but some might have more patience. Living with lions is not easy and majority of people living with them do not always have choices. Most have very little and cattle are considered probably one of the most valued items to posses in their cultures. Imagein you loose your most valued item? Would be difficult right?
Some believe that if you do not own cattle you are not a man, whilst others farm just because of a long line of of ancestral routes, which says you, have to do it. Whether we want to admit it or not but the reality is that they will always farm with livestock and it is not really our right to tell them not to do so. In saying this; farmers need to also accept that they farm in lion areas, understand why the lions might come closer and realize that there are risks involved with farming there. It is like leaving your cellphone unattended at a restuarant and coming back the next day to find gone. Can you really be upset or realize you made the mistake because you did not take care of what is important to you?
Playing the victim (which we have observed way to often) will not get a person anywhere. Rather admit what is what and take it on. If poison is known to be used in an area, apply pressure through large fines or jail sentencing. You can’t remove the poison from the racks as majority of the poison used is also used as pesticides to protect crop from insects (which again affects a farmers exhistence) Make examples of those that use poison because in my opinion, poison is the way of a coward. If you are scared of something, take it on headfirst ‘this means to call the local authorities, protect your cattle while they graze’. Yes its dangerous to walk there but then if you feel that strongly about the safety issue then do not farm with livestock in lion country.
We need to get back to the basics which are; realize where you are farming, understand the risks, expect some loss, insure a proper (non corrupt) compensation scheme is in action, develop a better understanding of the lion dynamics within each area and get farmers to physically observe and see their lions, involve tourist lodges to assit and participate and give a little back. These are not all the answers but large steps need to be taken as we are loosing them. What scares us is that we always wonder how many lions actually die unnoticed, unreported and on their own? How many lions die from conflict?
I will admit though that to find the best answers is difficult cause each area is different, unique and has its own challenges. When dealing with Human/Wildlife conflict you not just only working with lions but also with an entire village which can comprise of different views, personalities, believes and cultures. It takes time and time is money. To those folk that managed to send us funds when they can, you guys are amazing and this is truly and example of how you can make a difference from back home. Find a company that you believe in, send them funds and make them show you how you making a difference. You deserve that but most importantly, lions deserve it.