Pro Tomeletso investigating a lion kill. Community members state that lions cause a significant portion of cattle deaths, so it is important to understand and record each case to help reduce them.
Capture team— Pro Tomeletso, Andrew Stein and Eric LeFlore, and Jessica Wilmot (not pictured Erik Verreynne) —collaring the third lion in the project.
Pride in Our Prides aims to bridge the long-standing gap between wildlife conservation and needs of local people.
Lions are an icon of the Africa savanna, yet recent surveys show drastic declines in their populations across the continent. People fear living with lions and potential losses to livestock. As human populations expand, the range of lions and their prey have declined, leaving remnant, isolated populations with increased risk of inbreeding. In southern Africa, one large continuous population still roams across the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), an area which expands across five countries and multiple land use systems. Though lions are present, that does not mean that they are safe. Communities that experience high levels of conflict with lions may retaliate for livestock losses or attacks on humans by killing lions. Northern Botswana is located at the heart of KAZA, where lion populations show resilience in the face of high persecution. In recent years, villagers have set poison to indiscriminately kill all area lions including, juveniles and cubs. As a result, these poisoned baits often kill spotted hyenas, jackals, vultures and other species. Merely closing villager access to poison will not stop the problem, we must build a strong, inclusive program for exchanging ideas with villagers to increase coexistence.
We have developed a multilayered approach for reducing lion poisoning through community outreach and livestock protection. First, we have visited every household within the 5 villages at the boundary of this protected lion habitat to discuss the attitudes, perceptions and livestock guarding practices of the locals. Second, we’ve collared lions in the main prides and informed villagers of the local pride dynamics and habit use. Occasionally, we bring members of the communities to see the prides. By encouraging villagers to observe these prides in the wild and giving each lion a local name, we hope to engender a feeling of connection. Third, our state-of-the-art satellite collars inform our team (via text message) whenever the lions have entered the high conflict zone, thus allowing us to give villagers an early warning before predation can occur. Next, we have begun building lion-proof livestock corrals that keep predators out and livestock safely in at night. These portable corrals are made from locally sourced materials while utilizing the weaving skills of local villagers. Lastly, we are exploring the development a livestock insurance program to offset livestock losses to lion and other predators. To keep the insurance program self-sustaining, we plan to build partnerships with local lodges that benefit directly from healthy lion populations.
We believe that people are more inclined to care about things they know about and understand. When lions are given names and their individuality becomes apparent, people are more likely to want to protect them. However, we understand that lions are predators and will likely continue to kill livestock. Our program is designed to help direct non-lethal management practices at those individuals that are causing the most damage, thereby reducing the need for, and devastation caused by poison.
CLAWS Conservancy - Communities Living Among Wildlife Sustainably- is a 501(c)(3) registered public charity. #clawsconservancy
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