By Dr Norman Monks. - Director Research and Conservation
Conflict frequently occurs between wildlife and people and when the livelihoods and safety of communities are threatened. Similarly the lives of wildlife can be threatened when they leave Protected Areas and predate on livestock or, in the case of elephants, destroy crops.
The Communities we are assisting are impoverished and are unable to put in place costly livestock protection measures to protect their cattle, goats and donkeys. As an NGO African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is reaching out to two communities: one around Victoria Falls and the other around Chizarira National park in the Zambezi Valley. We are assisting them with measures that will reduce (mitigate) conflict, while at the same time ensuring that they are accountable for the mitigation measures and identify with the help projects.
To date we have used LED lights around livestock pens where livestock is kept at night, and also put in place predator-proof mobile pens where, similarly the livestock is kept at night. To date no predator attacks have taken place on livestock kept in these facilities but a lot of further assistance is needed.
It would be easier to build large livestock holding pens and pen in livestock from multiple homesteads. Unfortunately cultural beliefs will not allow one homestead to keep their livestock with livestock of another homestead, which means we have to assist individual homesteads.
While our aim is to support the communities against predation, we are equally committed to protecting the predators that may predate on livestock not kept safe. If livestock is killed villagers carry out revenge killings often through poisoning whereby whole prides of lion can be killed. The more protection we can give to villagers, the less chance predators will have of killing cattle or goats and the need for revenge killings is reduced or totally stopped.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions no progress has been made during the period covered by this report, however we have kept in touch with Community leaders and have assured them that we will continue to assist as soon as we can move about freely again.
Aug 14, 2020
Update on Community Guardians, an ALERT Project
By Dr Norman Monks - Director Research and Conservation
Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls, is an unfenced National Park which has Communities along the boundaries living in areas where traditionally wildlife used to move. Chizarira National Park on the Zambezi Escarpment is also unfenced and wildlife from the park enters the Communal Lands along traditional wildlife corridors and in so doing frequently kill livestock and destroys crops.
ALERT is keen toThe affected Communities identify with people from within the community more than an outside person and buy into mitigation measures in a The Community guardians will be employed from the Community and will be the interface between the Protected Area Authorities and villagers. They will report wildlife conflict, prevent retaliatory killings and keep records of all human-wildlife conflict incidents so that we (ALERT) can focus on hot-spot areas to assist in mitigatory measures that help the community and at the same time protect the wildlife.
During the period being reported upon, little progress has been made due to the Covid-19 epidemic, financial constraints and lockdowns. The human-wildlife conflict problem though has not gone away; in fact it has probably worsened as villagers are affected financially and are forced to deal with conflicts in a way that is often lethal to the wildlife.
ALERT continues to service and erect predator-proof holding pens despite the Covid-19 situation. Outside of Zambezi National Park livestock holding pens are protected using flashing LED lights, whilst around Chizarira National Park mobile predator-proof pens have been erected. Instead of the Community guardian ALERT staff, (mainly researchers) are doing the work that the guardian would normally do. By having Community Guardians employed from the communities, the Community buys in to the protective measures and is able to feel more in control of their situation.
Jul 16, 2020
ELEPHANT RESEARCH UPDATE, CHIZARIRA NATIONAL PARK
By Dr Norman MOnks - Director Research and Conservation
Chizarira National Park (1,910km²) is found in the Sebungwe district (15,529km²) of Zimbabwe and encompasses various National Parks (Chizarira, Hwange, Matusadona), Safari Areas (Matetsi, Chirisa and Chete), and surrounding Communal Lands. The total elephant population in Sebungwe is 3,407; a 75% reduction of the population over a number of years (Figures from the Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan 2015-2020).
Initially, ALERT’s research on elephants in Chizarira will be to obtain base-line data on the population so that future elephant demographics can be compared to reliable data.
For this research, elephants are darted and fitted with satellite collars allowing the ALERT research team to track them remotely and on foot. Information such as movements (daily and seasonal), herd numbers and sex composition are important in understanding a population.
Collaring elephants is no easy feat and takes days of tracking them on foot in order to find and identify appropriate individuals to collar to achieve the results needed. Recently the ALERT team spent over 5 days tracking elephants in the hopes of collaring two more individuals to increase the data set. Unfortunately, although many signs of elephants were observed, we were not able to locate an appropriate elephant to collar this time. The female that was collared in August last year (2019) is giving good data on movements within the park and also shows forays that they make into the Communal lands (see map). It is this kind of data that will help the National Park Authority to better manage this decreasing elephant population in the future.
Hopefully we will have more positive news in the next progress report so keep in touch.