In 2015, a human-wildlife conflict mitigation project was set up in collaboration with Coventry University in the UK, in response to ongoing conflict between communities in Zimbabwe’s Matetsi Conservancy and predators, which were attacking their livestock. The predators were mainly lions, which were being killed by homesteaders in retaliation.
Using a flashing lighting system to deter lions and other predators from approaching livestock bomas at night, 15 homesteads are currently being monitored to assess the ongoing effectiveness of this conflict mitigation method. The lights, marketed in the USA as ‘predator lights’ to deter wolves, comprise of a small LED infrared flashing light with a light sensor. These units are cheaper and last longer than traditional ‘white lights’, with a lifespan of up to four years. Coventry University funded installation of the systems. Camera traps with motion sensors were also fitted at each of the lit homesteads to identify predators approaching the bomas, as well as their behaviour on seeing the lights.
ALERT’s research team, accompanied by interns and project volunteers, visits the homesteads every Wednesday. All lights and camera traps are checked to ensure they are functioning correctly. Camera trap images are downloaded and added to a database for analysis by Coventry University. The team also talks to homestead owners to find out if there have been any new predator visits or attacks, and also to monitor how they are feeling about the project. It is important that this community feels they have a say in how the project is run, so weekly visits are also used to seek their suggestions on how improvements can be made.
Checking the camera traps
In March, predator visits were recorded at two of the lit homesteads. No attacks occurred at either, although some homestead owners spoke of attacks occurring on non-lit bomas. Although constantly on their guard - and bitter at having previously lost valuable livestock to predators - homestead owners said that they are now feeling more hopeful, since introduction of the lights has significantly reduced the number of attacks to almost non-existent.
An earlier camera trap image of lions approaching a lit boma
About the human / lion conflict mitigation project
Coventry University, in partnership with ALERT and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, have funded an initiative to help rural farmers in the Matetsi Environmental Conservation Area (ECA) of Zimbabwe protect their livestock against attacks by wild lions and other large predators. This Matetsi ECA is an area being managed under the Community Based Natural Resources Management programme, which encourages communities to sustainably manage wildlife resources found within their areas. ALERT has been working with Dr. James Bennett, an expert in livestock husbandry practices from Coventry University, the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority, and affected communities to install flashing lights on kraals located within conflict hotspot areas, alongside camera traps to assess the effectiveness of the lights. This exercise builds upon the original idea by Richard Turere, who invented the flashing light system to guard against lion raids on livestock in Kenya.