The goal of our Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Europe Section Blog is to share stories and relevant information about activities going on within our section and more broadly in the conservation community. Stories and articles shared on our blog should not be taken as an official position or statement of SCB or SCB Europe Section. Thank you for reading!

Friday, 7 December 2018

The vuvuzela: A lion deterant

Guest post by Liomba-Junior Mathe, Student Blog Contest Series 2018 

Humans have dominated large landscapes. Where they overlap edges of Protected Areas, there are always people and wildlife interactions. Hwange National Park (HNP) in Zimbabwe, a country in Southern Africa, is one of Africa’s finest destinations for many people visiting as tourists, but for a wildlife conservationist like myself, it’s home and the office all rolled into one amazing place. I’m a human carnivore-conflict expert and I have dedicated the last five years of my life working for Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) under the auspices of Oxford University, this is my story. 

 WildCRU’s Hwange Lion Research Project, which has been running for nearly 20 years, is aimed at understanding, managing and conserving the lion population of HNP through collection of valuable long-term monitoring data of population demographics, ecology and behaviour. However, conflict between humans and carnivores presents serious social and economic challenges for people living adjacent to protected areas. This is a common problem for communities along the borders of HNP where livestock are at risk of attack by predators. Today, far more African lions are lost to conflict with humans and their livestock than from any other cause of mortality. 
As part of this valuable research our focus is to reduce human-carnivore conflict, which poses a significant risk to the survival of all carnivores in the wild, through a detailed understanding of the ecological and social factors that influence conflict. In the Hwange area, this conflict arises from lion predation on the livestock of rural communities who frequently retaliate by killing the lion.
The Hwange Lion Research Project has implemented several strategies to alleviate lion predation. In 2013, we initiated the Long Shields Lion Guardian project in the communities surrounding HNP. The concept, based on a Kenyan version of the ‘Lion Guardians’, is a community-conservation initiative that employs local people who form a link between conservationists and their communities, providing information and encouraging cooperation, using traditional knowledge and novel technology to mitigate incidences of livestock loss, protecting local communities, and conserving predators. The Lion Guardians monitor wildlife populations and alert local herdsmen when a lion is nearby, allowing them to move livestock to safety or to frighten the lion off.
After more than a decade of studying lions, our findings have revealed that only a few lions in HNP population kill livestock. And because we now understand the dynamic patterns of livestock depredation and its factors, we can largely predict which individuals might leave the park to engage in stock-raiding, and even when this might occur. These lions (often the ‘nomad’ sub-adult males but occasionally females) have been radio-collared and their timed location fixes sent via satellite to an internet reception point, almost in real time.