Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe

by African Lion & Environmental Research Trust
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe
Sponsor Community Guardians in Zimbabwe

Community guardians are an important link between communities, wildlife and conservation.  Their function in communities surrounding a Protected Area includes collecting data on wildlife seen in the communal areas, reporting problem animals, keeping records of human-wildlife/livestock conflict, and to be the interface between community and the Protected Area Authorities.

To date the support response for this project has been poor probably due to the situation that we all face due to the Covid-10 pandemic.  We would like to thank our sponsors to date, for their sacrifice and commitment.  It has helped to make a difference in that although we are unable at this time to employ a full-time guardian, we have used the funds so far received to enable our researchers to step into the role that a guardian would take.

Zimbabwe had an exceptional season of rain after more than 4 years of drought.  The Villagers on the edges have eked out an existence by planting maize, ground nuts, sorghum and pumpkins that have had poor yields, heaping an extra burden on the community.  However this last season has seen good rains, rivers flowing and water holes filling up.  Villagers have been able to plant their crops and are due to reap an excellent reward for their efforts.

But as we left Chizarira a week ago we had reports from the District Councilor that there were reports of elephants in crops.  We brought up maps of the elephants we have so far collared and noted that one cow with a herd totaling 30 was in the Communal Land.  We have been able to warn villagers to carry out measures to stop the elephant going into the crops using age old methods namely fires around fields, lookouts, dogs, noise and light.  By so doing we are able to help the villagers protect the crops and also to prevent lethal retaliatory action by villagers who may be affected.

This project will continue since it is so important for the community and for the wildlife, but if funds do not come through we will need to look at other ways of fulfilling our commitment to the community. As mentioned our researchers are filling this role at this time and we are ensured that there is continuity in the support that we give villagers.  If and when sufficient finds are available, we will employ a fulltime guardian from within the villagers who knows the area and is respected by the community.

Thank you for your continued support during this difficult time.  Stay safe!

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A Community guardian is a rural community’s link with the wildlife authorities who are the custodians of wildlife and the NGO’s who work with communities in assisting them on human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures.  The role that this person plays is many faceted and includes monitoring and reporting all wildlife incidents affecting the community (livestock killings by lions, elephants decimating crops, crocodile attacks etc.,) assisting in remedial measures, as well as carrying out conservation education.  By responding rapidly and positively to human-wildlife conflict incidents and through conservation education, the Community Guardian helps prevent retaliatory killings against wildlife being undertaken by the affected community.  

The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) works with rural communities adjacent to two National Parks:  Zambezi National Park in the Victoria Falls area and Chizarira National Park which lies south of Lake Kariba which is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume. 

During the period being reported on, ALERT was urgently requested to assist villagers by protecting their livestock against lions.  Unfortunately funds to employ a full-time community guardian were not available however a village spokesperson, acting as a guardian, reported the incidents to ALERT who, with the help of the spokesperson and villagers, were able to put up one mobile predator-proof livestock holding pen in the Mucheni ward in the Binga area north of Chizarira National Park. 

The traditional pens made of local materials are often insufficient to protect livestock against predators.  Villagers try and keep lions away from livestock pens by making a loud noise using vuvuzelas, by banging pots, and shouting etc.) and by building fires around the pen.  This is dangerous to the villager and is not sustainable.  The community guardian will be the person to assist villagers in building a better pen, and who will try and convince villagers not to poison the lion or spotted hyaena responsible for livestock killings.

Until we can employ a guardian full time, ALERT research staff working in Chizarira National Park react to incidents such as these as quickly as they can but often only receive a report a few days after an incident.


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Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls, is an unfenced National Park which has Communities along the boundaries living in areas where traditionally wildlife used to move.  Chizarira National Park on the Zambezi Escarpment is also unfenced and wildlife from the park enters the Communal Lands along traditional wildlife corridors and in so doing frequently kill livestock and destroys crops.

ALERT is keen toThe affected Communities identify with people from within the community more than an outside person and buy into mitigation measures in a The Community guardians will be employed from the Community and will be the interface between the Protected Area Authorities and villagers.  They will report wildlife conflict, prevent retaliatory killings and keep records of all human-wildlife conflict incidents so that we (ALERT) can focus on hot-spot areas to assist in mitigatory measures that help the community and at the same time protect the wildlife.

During the period being reported upon, little progress has been made due to the Covid-19 epidemic, financial constraints and lockdowns.  The human-wildlife conflict problem though has not gone away; in fact it has probably worsened as villagers are affected financially and are forced to deal with conflicts in a way that is often lethal to the wildlife.

ALERT continues to service and erect predator-proof holding pens despite the Covid-19 situation.  Outside of Zambezi National Park livestock holding pens are protected using flashing LED lights, whilst around Chizarira National Park mobile predator-proof pens have been erected.  Instead of the Community guardian ALERT staff, (mainly researchers) are doing the work that the guardian would normally do.  By having Community Guardians employed from the communities, the Community buys in to the protective measures and is able to feel more in control of their situation. 

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Conflict mitigation is essential to conservation in order to protect both people and wildlife. Therefore, in 2015 ALERT in collaboration with Coventry University established a human wildlife conflict mitigation project in Matetsi. This is a long-term project aimed at uplifting the Matetsi communities, protecting the wildlife in the area and promoting coexistence between humans and wildlife. 

READY… INSIGHTS

Up until recently, the focus of the project has been to test the effectiveness of LED lights as a means to reduce night-time livestock losses to predators. However, preliminary results revealed a high frequency of daytime attacks in grazing lands as well as high crop losses to elephants. To address this ALERT decided to pursue a more holistic mitigation approach using Community Guardians, that is community members who are employed and trained to protect livestock and crops in their own communities.

STEADY… TRAIN TWO GUARDIANS

Together with community members and authorities, ALERT identified community volunteers and has already facilitated the training of 2 individuals through WildCru’s Community Guardian program, a tried and tested program that has successfully reduced human wildlife conflict in southern Africa. These Community Guardians are taught various skills which include kraal construction, cattle herd assessment, tracking and scaring of predators and elephants using non-lethal methods as well as reporting and early warning.

GO… EQUIP AND MOBILISE

Having completed the training, the next step towards mobilising these 2 guardians is to equip each of them with uniforms, stationary, a bicycle, a GPS, a mobile phone, call time and monthly wage.

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Due to a lack of funding the project has not been able to take off as we at ALERT had hoped. So no new developments have taken place and the project i at a standstill. We are hoping to secure funding for this project where we will be able to supply updates on how the Guardian program is functioning and what impact the guardians have on the communities.

We feel as though the guardians will have a positive impact on the communities as they will be granted the ability to protect the livestock of the families in the respective communities and will also have the ability to warn the families that predators are near.

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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
$474 raised of $6,600 goal
 
12 donations
$6,126 to go
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