Help mitigate Human Wildlife Conflict in Zimbabwe

by African Lion & Environmental Research Trust
Help mitigate Human Wildlife Conflict in Zimbabwe

There has not been a lot of new activity during the period covered by this report due to logistical problems.  However the mitigation measure we have so far put in place continue to help the communities surrounding Chizarira National Park.

The mobile livestock holding pens that we have deployed in various villages continue to be very successful in deterring spotted hyaena and lions from attacking cattle and goats kept in this facility.  Where these structures are not in place, villages continue to suffer from livestock deaths by predators coming from the Park.

The holding pens are made of opaque plastic that wildlife cannot see through.  The plastic sheeting is strung between poles and the livestock contained within.  To date no attacks against livestock have taken place where villagers are supplied with the mobile pens.

We have managed to purchase another mobile pen and the deployment of this in a village chosen by the Chief has been delayed due to transport limitations.

We are able to keep human-wildlife conflict to a minimum through other work we are doing namely collaring lions and elephants.  Whilst these projects are looking at various research and monitoring aspects, we are able to pre-warn villagers of elephants or lions approaching their villages (by monitoring the GPS locations given by the collars) thus giving the villagers time to put in place traditional mitigation measures such as fires around holding pens and crops, banging pots and drums, having dogs nearby etc.

In the next period before our next report, we hope to have at least two more villages set up with the mobile pens.

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Camping out for human-wildlife mitigation measures
Camping out for human-wildlife mitigation measures

Due to the rapid human population growth and the encroachment of people along the boundaries of Protected Areas - and frequently into a protected area, human-wildlife conflicts are occurring more frequently. T

he African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) has various mitigation measures in place in the communities surrounding the parks where we work. Whilst these measures (for example mobile predator proof livestock holding pens, flashing LED lights around traditional livestock pens) are definitely assisting in protecting livestock, our resources are limited and we can only help a small segment of the rural population.

Just recently the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority requested ALERT to assist them in dealing with lions that were killing cattle in the Mbelele villages south of the park. We set off with calling up equipment with the hopes that we could call up the lions causing the problem and dart them and translocate them back into the park. Although we stayed in the area (moving camp several times to where the latest lion footprints were seen) and did call-ups of cattle in distress in the hopes that the lions would come up, we were not successful.

We left a team behind when we had to head back to the park to continue to assess the situation. Fortunately, it appears that the lions have gone back into the park much to our relief. Often when lions kill livestock, they are destroyed through poisoning or are shot. We are pleased that the villagers and the Parks Authority considered using us to carry out non-lethal mitigation methods but we are mindful of the fact that more livestock holding pen and flashing lights around traditional pens will really be the long-term solution, coupled with the good will of the villagers who are affected.

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ALERT has two major sites in Zimbabwe where we are carrying out human-wildlife conflict mitigation projects: one near Victoria Falls in an area known as Matetsi, and the other in the Communal lands north of Chizarira National Park. In both areas the villagers live a subsistence lifestyle and livestock plays a large role in the financial status of the communities.  Cattle and goats are looked at as potential funds for school fees, extra food, clothes etc., so killing of livestock by predators (lions and spotted hyaena primarily) are a major setback and in many cases is followed by retaliatory action which often results in the death of the predator.

Recently an extra predator-proof livestock holding pen was been set up in the Mucheni Ward just outside of the northern boundary of Chizarira National Park, whilst the flashing light system around holding kraals is being maintained in the Matetsi area. Both methods work well and has meant that the villagers see tangible efforts to mitigate potential predator problems.

Whilst it may be difficult for people in the west to appreciate just how local people here suffer by living alongside Protected Areas, with wildlife, we are very aware that by helping combat wildlife-human instances, we assist both the community and the wildlife. Thank you for your support.

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Lion up at bait tree
Lion up at bait tree

Helping Communities who live on the boundaries with Protected Areas with human-wildlife conflicts is a major aspect of ALERT’s Community program.  This report concentrates on the communities to the north, west and east of Chizarira National Park.  The Park is nearly 2,000km2 in extent and the Community we are actively involved with is the Mucheni Community.

 Living next to an unfenced National Park such as Chizarira makes the villagers vulnerabkle to wildlife incidents.  Our role is to mitigate these incidents as far as possible using none-lethal methods and forewarning villagers of possible raids by elephants, lions and spotted hyaena.

 As a means of forewarning Communities of a possible raid by elephants or lions we (together with the management of the park) are collaring lions and elephants in the park so that we are able to track their movements and identify hot spots that will need special attention.  As the animals move towards the villages, we are able to alert the villagers to take precautions such as building fires around fields and ensuring that the livestock is kept secure and guarded.

 During the period covered by this report we managed to collar a bull elephant and were able to warn villagers of a possible raid.  The bull was photographed using a trail camera on the edge of the Park which makes the project very real to us and the villagers.  

 In addition we attempted to collar a male lion that was a potential problem but we failed in this endeavor.  Two University attachment students joined us and we built a hide from which to dart the lion.  A big leopard came up to the meat we had hung from a tree and later a spotted hyaena came up and ripped the meat off the tree.  A lion was roaring nearby and we could tell by the volume of the roar that he was coming closer but he did not come up to that bait.  When we left, the lion came up to smell the tree that the bait was on and he was captured on a trail camera.

 We will continue our mitigation work this next period by putting in predator-proof holding pens for wildlife and will continue to attempt to collar more lions and elephants so that we can work out movements and potential hot spots that will need our attention.

Collared elephant neat villages
Collared elephant neat villages
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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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Organization Information

African Lion & Environmental Research Trust

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lionsinafrica
Project Leader:
Stuart Armstrong
London, United Kingdom
$2,379 raised of $5,000 goal
 
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