Quite simply, as in any other field, you have to evaluate your results. It is easy for conservation efforts to be undertaken with the best of intentions, only to find that there are unexpected negative consequences which put the whole project in question. Unfortunately, too many organizations want quick fixes and they don’t stick around to ensure that their efforts have the desired results.
That is certainly not the case with the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) in Tanzania, an organization I am proud to support. Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, Charles Trout and Elvis Kisimir of APW recently had a paper published in Biodiversity & Conservation, titled Evidence-based Conservation: Predator-proof Bomas Protect Livestock and Lions. The team evaluated their depredation data relating to large carnivore attacks on livestock in their study area, and found a significant decline in depredation events after the construction of fortified bomas (also known as Living Walls).
The fortified bomas prevent attacks on livestock by large carnivores and this prevents retaliatory attacks on carnivores by livestock owners. They reduce habitat destruction because they do not require repeated cutting of thorn bushes like traditional bomas, and they reduce the burden on women, because they require no maintenance. But significantly, they also found that the reduction in depredation events due to construction of fortified bomas, did not increase the number of carnivore attacks on non-fortified bomas or on livestock at pasture. Had this been the case, they could have been reducing depredation at the boma, only to increase it elsewhere. Instead, the evaluation of their long-term data showed that fortified bomas are an effective conservation tool and should be considered by other organizations aiming to reduce human-carnivore conflict.
And that is how you know conservation is working!
Until next time…