HUMAN WILDLIFE CONFLICT
The largest ‘current’ threat free roaming lions face. The human population is constantly increasing and expanding which makes conflict inevitable.
Lions are constantly being shot at, snared, harassed or worse, poisoned. Very few lions being killed through human/wildlife conflict are actually reported to local authorities around Africa and this makes it so much harder to determine how stable or healthy a lion population is within an area or country.
General prey species that is available for lions to hunt seldom stick to one specific area due to seasonal movements after greener pastures. Local communities apply large pressure on natural game as well due to the constant increase of the ‘bush meat trade’ and this causes a domino effect when natural game is poached for meat consumption. Considering these two vital factors, lions either follow prey into community lands or lack prey diversity, which drives them towards slow moving prey such as livestock.
Human/wildlife conflict is real and should be considered as the major role player that will determine the success of free roaming lions in the future. If we do not attempt to decrease or deter lions away from people and at the same time do not allow communities to enter ‘lion territories’ the end result might just be that we will loose most lions that do not live within the protection of National Parks.
LED MOTION SENSOR LIGHT AND SIREN DETERRENT
Camera trapping plays such an important role in the work we do because itallows us to view lions without them knowing ‘we’ are there. Camera traps allowus to determine how many lions could be in a specific area, determine the sex ofthe pride, age ratio of pride/individual and how the lions react to the light/sirenswhen we are not there.If we had a physical presence at these kraals the chances would be slightly lowerwhere lions would come to investigate livestock at night. This does not help uswith the collection of data because we would interfere with their ‘natural way’ ofapproaching kraals. Camera traps are our eyes and every week when we removethe memory cards, we cannot wait to see if we caught any lion reacting to thelights.
FARMERS FOR LIONS
This is a small separate initiative we have set aside for the farmers that we workwith. Due to our close personal and work relationship with each farmer, we alsorealized the importance off cattle to a community. Cattle in a community showswealth, pride and strength so the more you own, the higher ranked one could beseen within a community. The westernized people do similar things but can takeit too far through their indication or understanding of what ‘wealth’ really is.
When farmers do not retaliate (shoot or poison) when lions cause conflict intheir area, we try and find a sponsor that would like to donate a cow or a bull toincrease the farmers’ herd. It shows to them that we care about them andappreciate the fact that they do not kill lions. Majority of the time farmersrequest bulls because bulls cost more but also brings a new/stronger genetic lineand this means they can sell their cows in the future for more. The stronger thegenes of the bull the less chance the offspring would have of sickness or illnessdue to no incest.
Developing an in depth understanding of Human/Wildlife conflict takes time,patience and is not solved through one action. Local cultures and believes play amajor role conflict with species and therefore it is vital for us to spend time withthe community. Develop a trust and a bond that opens communication andeducation. It is easy to preach, very difficult to lead. One cannot tell people ingeneral what to do or what not to do unless you walk a path with them and showthem the possibilities.
We all come from different cultures and believes so the key to decreasing conflict between lions and locals is to engage people, get to know them and show thatyou also care about them and what is important to them. Just because lions areimportant to us does not mean the same for the next person. You have to plant aseed with them and develop this relationship where they might see lions throughdifferent eyes eventually. We enjoy spending time with the communities,participating in their activities and educating their youth along the way. Thehope is that the youth would one day see the benefit of having lions close to theirvillages and understand the importance of these cats in an ecosystem.