By Dr Norman Monks | Director Research and Conservation
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.
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.
By Dr Norman Monks | Director Research and Conservation (ALERT)
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.
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