The Ruaha landscape – a vast area of over 50,000 square km in southern Tanzania – is one of the most important areas of the world for large carnivores. It is thought to support around 10% of Africa’s remaining lions, one of only four large cheetah populations left in East Africa, the third biggest population of endangered African wild dogs in the world, and globally important populations of leopards and spotted hyaenas.
However, these species come into intense conflict with local people over livestock depredation, and they are often killed by villagers who want to protect their livelihoods. This conflict poses a major threat to both villagers and carnivores, and effectively resolving it is a top conservation priority.
PTES are funding a project which aims to reduce this conflict through three main activities:
1) Reducing carnivore attacks on livestock – Such attacks are a major cost for local people, and are the main reason why people kill carnivores. RCP have trained and employed local ‘conflict monitors’ in ‘best-practice livestock protection techniques’, and those monitors help other villagers implement effective livestock protection. Many attacks are in the ‘bomas’, livestock enclosures, so the project is helping villagers predator-proof their bomas with diamond mesh wire and rapidly-growing Acacia thornbush. This forms an impenetrable barrier and these fences have been 100% successful at preventing attacks, which will in turn reduce the need for retaliatory carnivore killing.
2) Improving local benefits linked to carnivores – Until 2009, the vast majority of local people received no benefits from the presence of live carnivores on village land. The project has worked closely with villagers to implement relevant, tangible benefit programmes, including a school twinning scheme to provide much-needed educational equipment for schools, and a fully-equipped local healthcare clinic. These benefits, as well as those from training and employing project staff and conflict officers, are now demonstrating very clear local benefits from the presence of the project (and therefore carnivores) on village land.
3) Providing education and outreach – There is relatively little local knowledge about carnivores and the need for their conservation. The project is using Swahili DVD shows, Park visits and community meetings to increase local interest in and awareness of wildlife conservation. In addition, the project is training the next generation of Tanzanian scientists – one research assistant is completing his BSc, another is conducting a Postgraduate Diploma, and one will shortly start his MSc.
Together, these activities are reducing the costs of carnivore presence around Ruaha, as well as significantly improving benefits associated with them. Both depredation and local antagonism towards carnivores has decreased, so the project is helping improve the outlook for both people and predators in this globally important landscape.