Protecting Lions and Livelihoods: Using Visual Deterrents to Reduce Livestock Depredation by Large Carnivores

Simbarashe Pride Chatikobo

The project seeks to address the pervasive issue of Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC), focusing on the specific case of human-lion conflict in the Nyaminyami rural district of Zimbabwe. HWC poses a significant threat to biodiversity conservation, particularly in Africa, where wildlife freely roams outside protected areas, causing damage to crops, killing livestock, and resulting in human deaths and injuries. The central concern is the escalating conflict between lions and local communities due to factors such as reduced prey availability, leading to lions entering villages at night to attack livestock. In turn this leads to retaliatory killings of lions by affected communities, communities lose their livelihoods and lion populations dimmish. To mitigate Human Carnivore Conflict, this project will build on community engagement efforts, suggesting the use of a light deterrent system in rural Nyaminyami, Zimbabwe. A method, proven effective in Kenya and Namibia, involving the use of solar-powered flashing LED lights to deter carnivores, particularly lions, from approaching livestock kraals.

The project will affect both community lives and livelihoods, and on lion populations. The proposed intervention, comprising lion lights coupled with conservation awareness and strong kraal construction, aims to address both the conflict and negative perceptions. Nyaminyami rural district is characterized by high levels of poverty, adverse ecological conditions, and wildlife-induced challenges. Additionally, the lion population in this region is crucial in the survival of the species in the Kavango Zambezi Transfronteir Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) due to the connectivity between the landscape and its lion populations. Additionally, local Community Guardians will be trained as trainers to teach community members kraal construction techniques, emphasizing the use of local resources. The light deterrent system, purchased from outside Zimbabwe, is strategically installed based on analysed data, with homestead selection considering attack frequency and proximity to protected areas.

Data collection methods include pre-implementation surveys, installation monitoring, and weekly data recording on flashlight conditions, predator visits, and kraal incidences. Post-implementation questionnaires assess changes in predator visits and community perceptions, contributing to the evaluation of flashlight effectiveness. The reasoning behind the project emphasizes the global decline of large carnivores due to conflicts with local communities, particularly over livestock depredation. The shift from traditional livestock herding practices in various regions underscores the importance of community training on kraal reinforcement. The project anticipates significant positive impacts on reducing livestock depredation through the combined use of kraal reinforcement and flashlights, ultimately contributing to large carnivore conservation.

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