Lions on the loose

Our co-existence with the wild has not been all rosy. HWC has been in existence for as long as people and lions have shared land. The intensity varies with time and place, but it has always been there. It’s an inevitable part of living alongside predators. On the other hand, whenever people are determined enough, solutions are always found that benefit both man and beast. For example: Maasai’s are considered as warriors skilled at lion killing, but how many realize they mastered the art of co-existing with lions many years ago? They developed herding techniques that were perfectly geared toward preventing lion attacks on their livestock; and they used dense thorny acacia bushes as fences for their bomas (livestock enclosures) to keep out predators at night. Were these perfect solutions that worked all the time? No. There’s no such thing as a perfect solution. But they were good enough and if it wasn’t for such, there would be no Masai Mara today and you would have never seen Big Cat Diary on your television.

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A maasai boma (Enclosure)

Obviously things have changed in the modern age. Many of these traditional practices have been abandoned, though not all, and people have become urbanized. There are new challenges to overcome. In places where people keep livestock with the risk of lion predation, different less effective fences are often used and make conflict more likely to happen.

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Lion napping

A lot of today’s conservation issues are related to space. In protected and non-protected areas, it’s the dispersal area that is quickly being diminished. The northern, eastern and western boundaries of the Nairobi National Park are fenced as they border the urban and suburban areas of Nairobi. But the south is un-fenced to allow movement of wildlife to the open dispersal area of Kitengela, and parts of areas surrounding the park to the South. This movement has always happened, and historically large herds of wildebeest migrated all the way to Amboseli and back to Nairobi – a migration that resembled the Mara-Serengeti migration. This movement corridor was all communally owned land but in recent decades, land has been sub-divided, sold and developed which has fragmented the ecosystem. Restoration of lion connectivity would have to involve educating the general public on how to behave if they see a lion in their area. People need to understand that a lion is not going to be aggressive if it doesn’t feel cornered or threatened. Communities also need to realize that it is necessary for lions to move between different areas and in NNP’s case it might involve moving through some areas of dense human population.

Giraffe in Nairobi National Park

Collaboration is needed between KWS, NGOs, governments and the people living in these wildlife dispersal areas with proper agreements on benefits that landowners would gain from keeping their land open to wildlife. This could be through land lease programs, eco-tourism or other means. It could even be agreements such as a community getting a school built for them in exchange for their agreement to keep their land free of unsustainable development. There are many ways that people and wildlife can benefit mutually.

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White Rhino’s

Nairobi National park, the only national park in a capital city worldwide, is an epitome of this age-old co-existence between people and wildlife. It would be an extreme shame if we let the park and its lions disappear forever, only to be seen in the pictures and videos. Lets all play our part and support rather than condemn each other as we strive to conserve our priceless heritage.

 

 

Towett on Snares

Lets face it; the media can get us down at the best of times and especially when it comes to conservation. Poaching, especially of elephants and rhino in African continent attracts the attention of media, the sad reality is thousands of other species are also dying on a daily basis through the bush-meat trade as a result of snaring.

IMG_4989These small species are fundamental to the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth. By taking more than nature can replenish, we are jeopardizing our own future. Their decline is an indicator of the damage we are doing to our ecosystems. It is a grave warning that we must not ignore.

While it must be granted that some of this snaring is genuinely for the subsistence of impoverished communities, the vast majority of animals are killed through greed for the commercial bush-meat trade.

Desnaring in Tsavo West

Desnaring in Tsavo West

Game scouts/rangers dealing with this bush-meat trade face poachers that are often armed with weapons like spears, bush knives and even firearms and who are often accompanied by packs of hunting dogs. Scouts need to carry out regular snare sweeps that will often net dozens of snares at a time that have been carefully hidden along game trails, water sources and in thick bush where they are difficult to find.

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Where the snares are found freshly laid, game scouts will lie in ambush for hours waiting for the hunters return. When some of the poachers are actually caught, the judiciary often sees this as a “minor crime” and hands out weak or no sentences.

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Moreover, often these deadly rings of wire are forgotten by the poachers and can lie in the bush for years randomly catching any animal that wanders past. Sometimes the animal manages to break free and then dies a slow painful death due to the infection from the terrible wounds. Wildlife is being decimated at all levels and our conservation staff/partners need our full support in undertaking their difficult and often dangerous duties.

Community Conservancies Can Be More Profitable Than Farming – by Peter Towett

Community Conservancies can be more profitable than farming. This depends upon where they are located and what they offer.

I personally feel radical measures should be adopted by the County Government of Taita Taveta in order to stop the rampant cases of Human-wildlife conflict. One of the best measures is setting up community conservancies or helping the existing ones achieve their intended goals, and start seeing the benefits from them.

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Kipalo Hills Lodge Main Area

The new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013, has already recognized community conservancies as a positive form of land use which can be adopted by communities or a group of land owners living in areas where wildlife naturally occurs. This makes me wonder why political leaders in the areas prone to human wildlife conflict don’t support such initiatives? Surely, supporting these kinds of projects would be more profitable than growing corn in such areas with unreliable rainfall.

 

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One of the room tents at Kipalo Hills

The Mbulia Conservancy electric fence is being completed thanks to US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund, the Eden Trust, Disney Conservation Fund, and private donors. The fence will make the land continuous with Tsavo West National Park creating a safe haven for the wild animals, and mitigate conflicts experienced in the area. The lodge will bring in money and create more jobs for the community.

Conservation Legacy by Peter Towett

The word conflict is beaten around a lot these days and inevitably stirs up negative feelings. When you hear the word ‘conflict’, what do you immediately think of? You may think: battle, fight, war, struggle, violence and hatred. But do you also think of wildlife? It got me thinking about what conservationists leave behind in the communities they visit. Skills? Equipment? Capacity? Empowered communities?

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With the vast majority of the world’s biodiversity contained in some of the poorest regions, we as conservationists are sometimes required to work in collaboration with isolated, poverty-stricken communities who are most dependent on the resources that we are trying to conserve.

Conservation organizations and researchers are used to traveling huge distances around the country and regularly meeting people in remote areas. Yet to the people we meet, outside visitors may be rare and memorable experiences, possibly even talked about through generations. What we say and do will be remembered long after our time in an area. It is essential that we are aware of the bits we leave behind, our conservation legacy.

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Samburu church

Agreements, expectations and relationships are often viewed differently by different cultures. It is our responsibility to understand these differences, so that what we leave behind is positive and self-sustaining or at the very least clear and understood by the people who we have been working alongside. We know that people need information to be good thinkers and wise decision – makers. Understanding this is vital, for the people who have welcomed us to their homes and villages, and for people who may want to visit in the future, do research and help conserve biodiversity – all are warmly welcomed.

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Does this work well… yes!