Meeting with affected villagers
Communities surrounding the larger unfenced Zimbabwean National Parks are frequently affected by lions and spotted hyena that come from the park and kill livestock in the villages. Some villagers will take retaliatory action and poison or set snares to kill the predator killing livestock.
ALERT recently received reports of lions killing cattle in the Binga area in the north of Zimbabwe. Because ALERT is carrying out research on lions and elephants in Chizarira National Park (2,000km2) nearby the affected area, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and the Binga Rural District Council (RDC) contacted us to help mitigate the situation. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, a small meeting was called by ALERT, ZPWMA and RDC with the affected Community.
Our ALERT researcher and an attachment, spoke at the meeting and called upon villagers to take responsibility for their livestock. Good husbandry and the building of proper predator-proof holding pens and ensuring that livestock is safely inside at night, goes a long way to ensuring that predators do not kill the livestock. Most holding pens are constructed of flimsy poles that are low and with large spaces between uprights so that predator see the livestock and can easily enter. In some cases the cattle are not put in pens at night.
After the meeting ALERT donated a US$750 mobile enclosure that is made of opaque plastic sheeting. This enclosure is erected on an old field site near a homestead. The confined cattle cannot be seen by predators as they perceive the facility as a solid obstacle. We have had great success with this type of holding pen with no livestock losses when confined at night. Added to this protection is the fact that the confined cattle produce natural nutrients that are trampled into the soil and just before the next rainy season, the holding pen is taken down and crops planted in the nutrient rich soils. Crops grown in this site produce much higher yields than with artificial fertilizes - and it is all organic.
This is an excellent mitigation method where villagers see that their livestock are protected AND they do not have to purchase costly and often harmful fertilizers to get bumper, healthy organically-grown crops.
ALERT is still using the flashing light method on locally built pens and this has also been very successful in deterring predators at night. We are still raising funds for this mitigation method since it is far cheaper than the mobile pens. Research is being carried out on best mitigation methods, but our main purpose is to help the impoverished Communities that face wildlife threats daily. By so doing we also ensure that there is no reason to kill the predators that come from the parks for an easy meal.
Holding pen site preparation
Holding pen construction, inside view
Completed holding pen and posing!