The start of 2015 has not been as peaceful as many across the world hoped. There have already been many atrocities and human tragedies in the first 2 weeks of this new year and my thoughts go out to all who have lost family members, friends and colleagues.
The start of the year was also tragic for a pride of lions near Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania. On New Year’s Eve the pride killed donkeys which were kept in a traditional thorn boma in a Maasai homestead, so the moran (warriors) hunted the lions and killed one. Early on New Year’s day a woman and her child found a lion in their boma (also a traditional thorn boma). Thankfully the woman and her child were unharmed, but the moran of the area started gathering in large numbers and hunted down another 6 lions. One of APW’s Human-Wildlife Conflict officers tried to diffuse the situation. (Elvis Kisimir, pictured above, is another of APW’s HWC offers. Like the others, he is Maasai, from a village in the area, and has successfully prevented warriors from embarking on lion hunts in the past.) However, this situation involved huge numbers of warriors and attempts to resolve the issue peacefully were unsuccessful.
I’m adding this post as an update to “How Do You Know If Conservation Is Working?”, a post I wrote at the end of last year and which you can see below. Unfortunately, this incident is a prime example of why the work of organizations like APW is so vital and why the installation of more Living Wall bomas (fortified bomas that protect livestock, prevent habitat destruction and dramatically reduce incidents of human-wildlife conflict) are essential. The area where the donkeys were killed has very few Living Wall bomas although APW hopes to install many more there in the future. But each wall takes time and money to install. APW founder & Executive Director Dr Laly Lichtenfeld told me that many people in other communities with significant numbers of Living Walls have expressed sympathy to APW staff over the lion killings. They appreciate the numerous benefits that working with APW has brought to their communities – not only Living Walls, but high school scholarships for children, natural resource management seminars for adults, grants for small businesses and the creation of the only Women’s Association on the Maasai Steppe, to name just a few. APW aims to expand these programs to many more communities and I hope you will consider supporting their work.
2015 has certainly not started as we all hoped, but lets make sure we turn it around very soon.
Until next time…
How Do You Know If Conservation Is Working? (originally posted on Dec 12 2014)
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…