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 Testing a cost effective and innovative predator/livestock conflict mitigation programme in Kenya


                                     In deep discussion with the Olepolos Maasai Elders and Chief

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.

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.

The Big Life Foundation in Kenya has had considerable success to date with their compensation programme and we congratulate them on that. They also must rely on new funding to keep the programme on track but as I write this, they are enthusiastically embarking on the next funding trip to Europe. But one solution is never going to solve the problem in all situations are 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 equipped with proper fencing, night lights, motion sensors, etc   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 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.

We are planning to run these pilots in four conflict hotspot areas:

• 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 £260,000 target. We are absolutely delighted that Care for the Wild have already decided to support us in this project and they have provided the initial funds that have brought us to Kenya this week to kick off the project. They will join us in fundraising initiatives and we thank them very much for this.

Below are some of the things that your fundraising support will 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

Click here to see the gallery of photos and videos we already have to show you the scope of this project. This gallery will be updated regularly as we add in new photographs so please earmark this blog and revisit regularly!

We will also provide regular updates as we continue the work and the details of the planning begin to unfold.

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.

Posted by Chris Macsween at 12:04

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