In June this year, Pieter and Chris from LionAid went out to Kenya to explore ways in which we could work together with pastoral communities to bring a fresh resolution to the predator-livestock conflict that has proved to be one of the most challenging issues in predator conservation.
Retaliation against predators is one of the significant factors contributing to the catastrophic decline in lion populations.
We estimate that there are barely 15,000 lions left in the whole of Africa today.
Communities are often expected to live with predators but can experience substantial livestock losses. In addition pastoralists often have to invest considerable resources in livestock herding, guarding and predator control, adding significantly to cycles of poverty among rural communities. In many African pastoralist societies, livestock also has a cultural value exceeding economic worth as cattle are valued for social, political, cultural and religious reasons. Livestock assets are the primary form of wealth acquisition and storage in these communities, and such assets are particularly vulnerable to coexistence with predators.
Past payment schemes have attempted to remedy the problem, but many rarely outweigh the costs of livestock predation. These schemes also rely on the constant supply of new funding to maintain the programmes.
We are convinced the new approach we are testing (detailed below) will meaningfully add to the overall remedy to halt the decline in Africa’s carnivores.
In June this year, we were privileged to spend time among the Maasai communities in Kenya, in Kitengela and Olepolos, two of the conflict hotspots that have seen lions and other predators killed in retaliation for raids on livestock.
The Elders in these communities welcomed us warmly and were very pleased to be consulted as to their ideas for new ways forward. From them, we deepened our understanding of these conflict issues and we were guided by them as to fresh approaches to resolve the difficulties they face. Based on these meetings we jointly decided that a pilot programme was needed to determine best methodologies before wider application across Africa.
This scheme is unique in that there is unlikely to be further need for expensive programmes to support compensation, the programme will quickly be self-sustaining, will provide additional revenue directly linked to predators, and will significantly reduce cycles of poverty caused by wildlife conflict.
The compensation schemes would need to be directly linked to deterrent measures, including the need to construct predator resistant bomas ( a livestock enclosure) equipped with proper fencing and a boma protection kit (including night lights and sound deterrents, all on a microchip which randomly select when an unsuspecting predator trips the motion detector!) Briefly, these innovative measures can be summed up as follows:
a) The "insurance" herd concept works on the model that partial cost of establishing deterrent measures at the bomas would be offset by the community member paying for the boma upgrade kit, not with money (which is in short supply!) but with one or more calves per protected boma.
These calves would be raised in a herd established on a private ranch or maybe differentiated as a locally maintained herd. Predation on community livestock would then be compensated by direct substitution, i.e. one replacement cow for one lost to predation. The "insurance" herd could at some time be subjected to commercial takeoff to ensure maintenance of deterrent systems and/or joint profits to the ranchers/communities. If housed with the ranchers, they would be expected to pay maintenance costs of the "insurance" herd, for example by paying the costs of dipping, needed veterinary care, etc.
b) The "investor" herd concept is similar, but in this case the communities would accept a number of animals bought by investors to be placed with their herds. In case of loss to the community herds, direct substitution could be made from the "investor" animals. The investors should be able to recoup any remaining funds after 2-3 years when their livestock is sold, with an agreed % of the sale given to the communities. Care would be taken to ensure that placement of "investor animals" within community herds would not lead to overstocking.
This innovative programme potentially has many positive outcomes:
• Substituting a community-derived compensation scheme to effectively counter the continuing frustration with existing compensation programmes
• Effective equipping of livestock bomas to deter and prevent livestock losses by wildlife predation
• Provide local people with additional revenue opportunities directly linked to carnivores
• Prevention of retaliatory killings of valuable predators
• Have a positive impact on human poverty
This project will be conducted over 24 months and we will need in excess of £260,000 to see it through to its completion, but need immediate funds to get the pilots started.
We are planning to run these pilots in four conflict hotspot areas in Kenya:
• the most Westerly is Olepolos area where predation is predominantly leopards attacking shoats (sheep and goats) in the night enclosures
• Kitengela is 70% shoat and 30% cattle predation by overwhelmingly lion.
• Isinya is 90% shoat predation by, in order - hyena, leopard and infrequently lion.
• Muereshi is 60% cattle predation mainly by lions followed by hyena and leopard
How can you help?
The overwhelming need is for fundraising to help us reach our £50,000 immediate target.
Below are some of the things that your fundraising support will help purchase to fulfil the requirements of this project:
• Mini Laptop £300/$495 - we need to purchase five.
• Photocopier/printer £60/$100 – we need to purchase one.
• External Hard Drive £70/$115 – we need to purchase one.
• Safaricom Modem £40/$66 – we need to purchase five.
• Motorbike £720/$1180 – we need to purchase four.
• GPS Unit £180/$300 – we need to purchase four.
• Digital camera/battery/charger £110/$180 – we need to purchase four.
• Memory cards £6/$10 – we need to purchase four
• Boma Upgrade Kit £100/$164 – we need to purchase a minimum of five hundred.
• Four wheel drive hire per month £1290/$2065/pm - 3 months per annum
• Four wheel drive maintenance per month £60/$100
• Four wheel drive fuel per month £160/$260
• Motorbike maintenance per month £60/$100
• Motorbike fuel per month £115/$190
• Motorbike Insurance per month £25/$40
Be part of this new concept in lion conservation!!
Each and everyone of you can play a part and be justifiably proud of the contribution you have made to ensuring the continued survival of our iconic predator species and by helping these pastoral communities maintain the necessary land for conservation.
There are no traditional perks for this campaign as we need all the money to go straight to helping these Maasai peoples who are currently suffering rural poverty and to stop the catastrophic retaliatory killings of carnivores.. This project is truly ground breaking as if we find the four pilot schemes are successful, we can replicate the programme across all the other areas in Africa where human/livestock conflict occurs.
To assure your money is going directly to the effort, we will send updates and images from the four pilot areas as this exciting project unfolds. Every donation no matter how small or large is a tremendous help!
Other ways you can help
Whether you feel you can donate or not, your support is very much appreciated. Please share this campaign on your Facebook timeline, tweet about it, send out emails. There is a campaign page on our website where we will post updates, videos and photos.