ALERT’s work in Chizarira focuses on the protection of the resources of the surrounding communities. Chizarira is 1 910km2 surrounded by rural communities and development living subsistent lifestyles, growing their own crops during the rainy season and keeping livestock.
Living so close to a National Park poses several challenges for the communities. Large herbivores such as elephant frequently migrate towards these areas where there is an abundant food source in the form of the villagers crops.
Predators also predate on livestock in these areas and become accustomed to the easy pickings of these unattended livestock.
There is a gap in Communication between the Guardians of these protected areas and the communities. ALERT has worked on better equipping villagers with equipment to deter the animals and attacks. Several Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation strategies have already been put into place in these communities this year with a vision to further develop each community to a point where there are no more cases of Human Wildlife Conflict recorded.
ALERT is also monitoring the movement of several elephant and lion in and around Chizarira through GPS Tracking and getting a better understanding of the movement patterns of these animals. ALERT is also now able to inform communities when one of the collared animals approach their area in order for them to be prepared for the arrival of the animal.
By monitoring these animals and better equipping communities with the correct resources, ALERT is working at minimising the gap in communication between the Guardians of these areas and the Surrounding Communities.
There is a communication gap between Protected Area guardians (Park managers and field rangers), and the villagers living in the communities surrounding the PA.
We are working in the 1,910km2 Chizarira National Park which is surrounded by rural communities who live a subsistence lifestyle, growing crops in the wet season and keeping livestock, mainly goats and cattle.
Elephants from the park frequently move out of the unfenced park into the villagers to raid crops. Lions too, move out of the park and predate on unattended livestock oe livestock not properly protected overnight in flimsy holding facilities..
Through our research programs on elephants and lions where we collar an individual in a group (herd or pride), we are able to warn villagers of possible incursions by these two species since the collar has a geofence function that warns us of a collared animal and nearing the park boundary.
Community guardians can be contacted by our research staff to warn villagers of possible human-wildlife conflict (HWC) problems. In addition, they keep records of all HWC in the village wards which they work in.
Villagers who lose crops or livestock to wildlife are incredibly tolerant, but if wildlife conflict is not reduced, they are often driven to dealing with the problem themselves which could result in mass poisoning. The Community guardian is therefore an important conservation link and we need more of them to help us deal with human-wildlife conflict mitigation.
By Dr Norman Monks | Director Research and Conservation
Community guardians are the interface between the rural farming Communities and the Protected Areas around which they live. Wildlife in Protected Areas are under increasing threat due to human population expansion and poaching within the Protected Areas (P.A.)
Before the burgeoning human population, wildlife was free to move between P.A.`s along traditional animal paths that had been used for hundreds of years. This movement allowed gene transfer, reduced population pressure and reduced social conflict and of course gave vegetation a chance to recover from animal browsing and grazing.
We are working at establishing the existence of traditional animal corridors between P.A.`s in our lion and elephant research where animals are collared with a GPS collar so that their movements can be tracked on a digital map. We are also able to inform communities of the possible movement of wildlife into their areas so that they can protect their crops and livestock.
The community guardian, as the liaison person, is able to bring awareness to communities of the need to protect crops and livestock but also to help educate people for the needed to allow animals safe passage between P.A.`s and to keep the corridors open to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
The community guardian is chosen from the community that they will work in so that they are known to the community and are also trusted by the community. This is important as there is often distrust between the community and the Protected Area authorities.
This project still needs additional funding before it can be expanded sufficiently to be totally effective. ALERT staff frequently fill in the gap by carrying out the role that the community guardian has and we are slowly building up trust with the communities. Recently we were asked to deal with a lioness that had killed cattle by capturing it. We failed but fortunatately the lioness went back ino the park and safety.
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