Help mitigate Human Wildlife Conflict in Zimbabwe

by African Lion & Environmental Research Trust
Help mitigate Human Wildlife Conflict in Zimbabwe
Cattle in a mobile predator-proof pen
Cattle in a mobile predator-proof pen

January is at the heart of the rainy season in Zimbabwe and whilst rain is always gratefully received, the change in season from hot and dry to warm and wet does often mean that wildlife will more readily leave the Protected Areas (PA’s) and move into the surrounding Communal Lands.

Lions in the PA’s are easily able to hunt their wildlife prey around dwindling water supplies in the dry season but when the rains come, the wildlife disperses making hunting difficult.  At this time lions may move into the Communal Lands and prey on livestock. 

At this time of the year villagers are planting their maize and other crops, taking advantage of the rain.  This is the time that elephant (mainly bulls) may come into the crops to feed on succulent new maize, pumpkin, sorghum and other cops.

It is often difficult to deal with all of the problems caused by wildlife in the Communal Lands immediately but our staff reacts as quickly as possible and meets with villagers to agree on best non-lethal control measures. Our activities during the period covered by this report have been limited due to COVID but we have been able to maintain the project, assure the villagers that they have our support and that we are available to help.   The pictures below will show you some of the activities that we have put in place.  The purchase of materials has in some cases been supplemented by the donations received from you.  We have not yet reached our financial target for this project but we are making steady progress.

Interestingly our other two projects (lion and elephant research) feed directly in to Human-Wildlife conflict as the GPS/satellite collared animals show us and the Community where we need to chase off potential threats.

Thank you for your support.

ALERT staff attending meeting with villagers
ALERT staff attending meeting with villagers
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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.  

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Meeting with affected villagers
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 site preparation
Holding pen construction, inside view
Holding pen construction, inside view
Completed holding pen and posing!
Completed holding pen and posing!
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A big thank you must go out to our donors, we have raised enough money for one set of LED lights. We will be purchasing these lights from South Africa.

Recently there have been no livestock depredation cases recorded in the Matetsi Ward. 4, in Victoria Falls. There were 4 livestock (cattle) losses to lions recorded in October in the area. All four of the attacks took place during the day in the rangeland. Which is showing the usefulness and need of the LED lights as no livestock have been attacked in their pens as these are protected with the LED flashing lights.

Thank you again to our donors we can now protect one more livestock holding pen. 

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ALERTs Human-wildlife conflict mitigation in Matetsi ward continued as usual. Some recent figures from the team show the following livestock losses to leopard, hyena and lion, (8 cattle, 8 goats, 2 donkeys, 2 dogs and 1 pig).

Some of our lit homesteads had lions visiting them but experienced no attacks at the cattle kraals. Only one of the lit homesteads had their pig killed by lions at night. This is possible because their pigsty does not have any lights and is further away from the lit kraal. The lions also avoided using the route which goes close to the kraal hence no images were obtained from our camera trap.  3 cattle and 8 goats which are part of the above records were lost during the night in Masikili village.

The loss occurred in the section of the village where no single homestead has lights installed on any of the kraals. In terms of diversity of predators’ woodlands village seemed to have suffered the most. The village members lost one cattle to a clan of hyenas at dawn when they were being taken back to the kraal. They also lost two dogs to a leopard. The remaining 4 cattle which were recorded occurred in the rangeland during the daytime when cattle were left to free-range and were caused by lions.

So we would like to thank our donors for their support and help, the money raised recently;y in the Little by Little campaign will help ALERT expand this project. We can now fully light up another homestead and that is thanks to you, so thank you we look forward to taking this project further with you alongsie us.

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Organization Information

African Lion & Environmental Research Trust

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lionsinafrica
Project Leader:
Stuart Armstrong
London, United Kingdom
$1,152 raised of $5,000 goal
 
25 donations
$3,848 to go
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