Creating innovative solutions to human-lion conflict
The Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, (the Maasai steppe), of Tanzania hosts some of the most spectacular carnivore populations on the planet; including lions, hyenas, and leopards. The African lion, emblematic of this ecosystem, is perhaps the most threatened of any other lion population in Tanzania due to retaliatory killings by herders (Kissui, 2007). Yet the Maasai people who share the landscape with this magnificent predator often bear the majority of the costs for its conservation. Foremost among these is predation on cattle, the very foundation of Maasai livelihoods, culture, and status, further exacerbating poverty and hardships in the villages of the steppe.
While Maasai pastoralists suffer livestock losses due to predation from lions and other carnivores including hyenas and leopards, lions are the most vulnerable to retaliatory killing by pastoralists. This suggests that lions could be the first carnivore to disappear if the current trends remain unresolved. Long-term conservation success for lions will depend on creative and locally responsive strategies for resolving conflicts with villagers and promoting human-lion coexistence in this landscape through innovative livestock and herding management strategies. In order to realize this goal, CREE has partnered with the Tarangire Lion Project and the African Wildlife Foundation to implement conflict remediation strategies with local stakeholder buy-in.
The Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem hosts the second largest remaining lion population in Tanzanias northern protected areas network. It is important that effective carnivore conservation strategies are put in place in this landscape since retaliation in response to livestock predation is a serious threat to large carnivore conservation. Applied research is now developing a detailed understanding of livestock predation and testing mitigation strategies to promote carnivore conservation.
Managing populations of large carnivores requires information on density, population biology and demography. The Tarangire Lion Project monitors the Tarangire lions to estimate lion population trends and to provide a basis for assessing the long-term success of any lion conservation intervention program. Over the past three years, the population size in the 2,000-square km study area inside Tarangire National Park has averaged 200 individually identified lions, and the demographic database continues to expand.
The current age-sex structure of the population shows a fairly equal sex ratio for juveniles and sub-adults, but with many more adult females than adult males. This suggests either higher male dispersal rates from the study area or a much higher male mortality rate. Adult sex ratios in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro are roughly three to four females per male, whereas the ratio in Tarangire is closer to 10 females per male. The very low number of adult males may reflect high off-takes by the trophy hunters that encircle the national park or greater numbers of males being killed in retaliation for attacks on cattle.
The Tarangire system is highly dynamic with the seasonal wildlife migration between core protected areas, (Tarangire and Manyara National Parks), and wet season dispersal into communal lands. This increases the potential for human-lion conflict, and core-protected areas cannot ensure long-term lion survival in a landscape where human population continues to expand. Because of this complexity, lions in the Maasai Steppe are perhaps the most threatened of any lion population in Tanzania.
The majority of lion killings in the Maasai steppe are associated with livestock predation. Livestock predation occurs at night when livestock are kept in enclosures, (bomas), and during the day when they are herded out into the grazing fields. Ineffective husbandry practices contribute significantly to the high level of livestock predation. Pastoralists in the Maasai Steppe keep their livestock in bomas for protection against nocturnal predators. Bomas are typically constructed from thorn bushes. Unfortunately these bomas do not provide sufficient protection against livestock predation, and predators can easily break through boma walls.
Lions either force their way inside enclosures or stampede the livestock, causing breakage of the boma walls. To give an example of the magnitude of the problem, between January 2004 and July 2007 the Tarangire Lion Project recorded 133 lion kills in retaliation to livestock predation in twelve villages, while lions attacked more than 511 livestock, (including cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and dogs), in the same period.
Recent research results indicate a significant proportion of livestock being lost to predation in bomas, (Kissui, 2007), as Tarangire lions spend up to six months in the village lands. Moreover, thorn bush bomas require an enormous amount of trees to be cut from the surrounding environment for construction and require replacement of the fencing materialsat least twice a year, putting a heavy strain on the fragile environment. Indeed, frequent chopping of trees for boma construction is partly responsible for increasingly deforested and semi-arid conditions in the Maasai Steppe.
CREE believes that funding to reduce lion conflicts must go to:
- ensuring practical, direct, and measurable outcomes that have an immediate impact on villager’s livelihoods
- crafting a multi-faceted conflict amelioration scheme which fosters a greater tolerance for predators across the landscape in the long term.
The project objectives listed below address both these short-term and long-term goals for the people in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.
Because livestock herder retaliation is the primary motivation for killing lions, one strategy for reducing human-lion conflict is improving livestock husbandry. For example, improvement of livestock security against predators at night using low-tech, low-cost techniques such as chain-link fences to improve livestock protection in bomas has the potential to reduce conflict between lions and livestock keepers. This practice can therefore be effective in improving livestock security.
At the onset of this program, the Tarangire Lion Project encouraged pastoralists to reinforce their bomas with chain link fencing. To make this programme self-sustaining, they encouraged pastoralists to purchase the fencing materials themselves rather than wait for donors to provide funding and materials.
This program has been positively received, and some families have been willing to use their own cash to purchase the fencing, using only organizational support to provide assistance with transporting the materials to the families’ respective bomas. However, the financial obstacles to purchase reinforcement materials have made it difficult for most of the pastoral families to implement the program. CREE seeks funding to support the implementation of the boma reinforcement program by the Tarangire Lion Project.
To do this without fostering a culture of dependence, pastoralists are asked to contribute at least 50% of the costs of reinforcement materials, thereby giving them the means to improve husbandry practices, livestock security and a stake in the outcome. Our first goal is to help 30 families through this process with plans to expand throughout various villages in the region. Some of the villages with the most acute predation problems include the Selela and Engaruka villages in the Monduli District and Loboir soit, Emboreet, Terat and Sukuro villages in the Simanjiro District.
Pilot work by the Tarangire Lion Project indicates that bomas reinforced with fences are more effective against predators than thorn bush bomas. Therefore, promoting their use among pastoralists can reduce the impact of predation for livestock keepers and will also reduce the number of lions killed in retaliation to livestock predation. The cost for an average boma that shelters up to 200 goats and sheep is approximately $400 USD, including fences and poles.
Mapping of conflicts
Because lions are subject to retaliatory killing when they venture into communal lands, information on the spatial-temporal movement of lions can be used to accurately identify refuge areas for lions and to incorporate such information into village land use plans so that pastoralists can avoid conflict-prone areas. Tarangire/Manyara lions remain inside the parks during the dry season, but spend up to six months in communal lands each wet season.
Livestock predation by lions is highest in the wet season, suggesting that migratory lions from the parks are largely responsible for livestock predation in the region. However, we still have much to learn about the lions’ precise ranging patterns and possible refuges while outside the parks.
By understanding the full extent to which park lions depend on village lands, we will be better able to advise the Tanzanian National Parks Authority, (TANAPA), and local communities about strategies for mitigating human-lion conflict. CREE funds will enable the Tarangire Lion Project to purchase equipment such as GPS collars and hire assistants to help in collection of predation/attack information in the villages.
A critical component to the conservation project will be to engage key wildlife authorities, district level executives and other stakeholders to disseminate research findings and seek solutions that impact decision making regarding human-carnivore problems in the Maasai steppe. CREE support will enable the Tarangire Lion Project to organize a series of regular meetings with local people and key wildlife management and conservation authorities, including TANAPA, the Wildlife Division and the NCAA, (Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority), to talk about lessons learned with fencing construction techniques. Regular meetings will also provide continual updates to park authorities on the lion conflict situation among the villages, thus strengthening dialogue towards achieving effective conflicts mitigation strategies.
The Tarangire Lion Project has been collecting information on the extent and pattern of livestock predation and developing strategies for conflict mitigation with local communities since December of 2003. CREE supported the project through provision of medical suppies in communities, creation of 2 lion-proof boma, and support for community meetings. CREE has discontinued its support of the project since African Wildlife Foundation is now working with Dr. Kissui.