MITIGATING LION / HUMAN CONFLICTS

To reduce lion predation incidence on community livestock


Human-lion conflict issues are widespread across Africa. With an increasing lack of prey availability and suitable habitat, lions have become a health and safety hazard to many rural communities through the killing of livestock and/or injuring or killing people. As a result, lions are viewed as dangerous pests and are destroyed through retaliatory killings or by Problem Animal Control departments. In Kenya alone, an estimated 100 lions are killed on average every year in retaliatory killings by locals.

As lions frequently roam into human settlement areas at night to prey on enclosed livestock, the design of bomas (animal enclosures) is a key aspect to preventing attacks. However, it has been proven that lions can penetrate a vast variety of boma wall types and are able to scale often inadequately built structures.

An innovative solution to this problem has come from a Kenyan directly impacted by conflict with lions.  In 2010, an 11 year-old Kenyan boy, Richard Turere from Kitengela, created his own method of protecting his family’s boma from lion attacks at night. Rather than strengthening the boma walls, Richard used a handful of torches, a second-hand car battery and a small solar panel to create a flashing light system around the boma perimeter. Knowing that lions are naturally wary of people, he designed the lights to flash in sequence, giving the impression that someone was patrolling the enclosure with a torch. In the two years since installing this system, Richard and his family have reported no further lion attacks.

In 2012, Kenyan-born Sandy Simpson created a modified version of the existing lighting system and began to install it within those communities most threatened by lion attacks. To date, Sandy has successfully installed 34 units around Kenya, with all communities so far reporting no further lion attacks. It is hoped the system can be used continent-wide to successfully reduce lion attacks on bomas and therefore improve community tolerance of predators.

One hugely important aspect of these lighting systems is that of cost.  NGO's requesting funds for predator proof bomas, being used most commonly in East Africa, are asking for up to $2000 per boma per household.  We estimate that to install such bomas in medium and high conflict zones in Tanzania alone would cost around $2 billion.  For these bomas to be installed throughout the continent is clearly not financially viable.  This lighting system is a tiny fraction of the cost, and through further development and trials such as this we hope that this cost will be further reduced, including to being affordable for the community members themselves so as to reduce the reliance on donor funding to meet the conflict challenges facing the African people.

ALERT is installing lighting systems in the high conflict zone of the Hwange Communal Lands and at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management, in western Zimbabwe.  Although no further incidents of lion attacks have been reported in the communities already using the lighting systems, a lack of post monitoring research upon their effectiveness currently exists, especially as to whether the units will deter predators in different habitat types.  It is anticipated that the units installed in Zimbabwe will provide crucial data regarding how successful the lights are at deterring predators and also a clearer insight into why the system is proving to be so successful. 

The project aims to: 

  • Reduce lion predation incidence on community livestock;
  • Monitor and measure the effectiveness of lighting systems on deterring lion predation;
  • Determine behavioural impacts on predating lions;
  • Improve community perception and tolerance of lions, and;
  • Improve livestock husbandry practices.
1. Incident monitoring
 
With the assistance of community members and livestock herders, an incidence database is being created and maintained to monitor all lion-livestock issues in focus communities.  Community members and livestock herders are provided with thorough training to record relevant data to be input into the database during monthly visits. 
 
2. Behavioural study
 
Using motion sensor camera traps, footage is gathered of those lions approaching lit bomas. Their movements and behaviour whilst approaching and remaining in the vicinity of the bomas is being studied and analysed to determine the extent to which the flashing lights directly impact and deter predatory behaviour. 
 
3. Husbandry practices
 
With the assistance of community members and livestock herders, husbandry practices are being reviewed and improved to help prevent livestock predation.
 
4. Community perception
 
Relevant community members, leaders and livestock herders are encouraged to partake in a surveys to determine changes in community perception of lions resulting from the installation of the boma lighting systems. 

Click here for information about lions within Zimbabwe


Milestones:

2013:  Three trial Installations of the lighting systems on bomas impacted by lion predation were undertaken to begin to assess their impact within this habitat and with this lion population.  The systems have, so far, been 100% effective and we are seeking funding to extend the trial. 
 
 2nd April 2013: LIGHTING UP ZIMBABWE
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