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.