By Hannah Campbell
Here in Northern Kenya, the traditional lifestyle and livelihood practised by the local Maasai and Samburu people is nomadic pastoralism. This involves moving from place to place, following patterns of rainfall in search of fresh pasture and water for their cattle, camels, sheep and goats. This lifestyle has been practised since their arrival in Kenya in the 15th century, but lately it has risen to an increase in both human-predator conflict and competition with other grazers for resources. With the human population continuing to expand and shifts in settlement and grazing patterns, it is becoming more and more important for humans and wildlife to share habitat, and to coexist peacefully.
Loisaba Conservancy is at the forefront of livestock and conservation land management, and believes wildlife and livestock can and need to coexist. Loisaba has livestock, but instead of negatively impacting wildlife, the careful management of cattle grazing and the construction of dams at Loisaba has meant that there is a good, consistent supply of food and water for wildlife. This has created a haven for endangered species such as the African wild dog and Grevy’s zebra, as well as large numbers of elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and cheetah.
In partnership with San Diego Zoo Global and Lion Landscapes, Loisaba also helps mitigate human-wildlife conflict that arises in the surrounding communities due to predators killing livestock:
San Diego Zoo Global
As part of San Diego Zoo Global’s Leopard Research Program, a Boma Monitoring Study is being carried out in Loisaba’s neighbouring communities in order to examine the carnivores that visit livestock bomas, and understand what may differentiate between an encounter and an attack at a boma site. Some bomas (carefully chosen by members of the community) have been supplied with subsidised materials such as wire and predator deterrent lights, in order to identify the best tools for mitigation, and contribute towards human-wildlife coexistence rather than conflict.
San Diego Zoo Global’s Reticulated Giraffe Program, the Twiga Walinzi Initiative, is also looking into livestock interactions. In June 2017, 11 GPS tracking devices were fitted onto giraffes in order to provide insight into the movement of giraffe as well as possible movement corridors and preferred habitat. To further understand the interactions between giraffe and livestock, tracking devices were also placed on some of the cattle, camels and goats at Loisaba. This movement data, when combined with the giraffe movement data, will give a comprehensive oversight on the movements of livestock herds in relation to reticulated giraffe and how livestock are potentially impacting giraffe movement.
Lion Landscapes’ “Collaring for Coexistence” initiative is using technology to help lions live alongside people and livestock. Specialised lion GPS collars are deployed and managed in order to provide livestock owners with real time lion movement data via a mobile app, developed by Save The Elephants. This helps people keep their livestock away from lions in an area, and therefore reduces attacks on livestock and retaliation killing. The collars are also equipped with a chip that sets off an alarm when in close contact with Savannah Tracking’s Boma Shield System – the harmless deterrents used (lights and alarms) often stop a lion attacking, and ensure that the night watchmen are awake and ready to chase it away.
Six members of Loisaba’s Rapid Response Team have also been trained and equipped to respond effectively to incidences of human-carnivore conflict, following agreed best practises for lion conservation. This Lion Ranger training from the Peregrine Fund included information on how to respond to wildlife poisoning incidents, in order to prevent further wildlife losses and minimising risk to human and livestock health.