An update on human-wildlife conflict mitigation in Zimbabwe
July 18 2017

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.

Throughout June, ALERT's research team has continued to visit homesteads every Wednesday to collect data and speak to the owners.  They are all still very enthusiastic about the project and wish for it to expand to other homesteads also.  This is something we will endeavour to do when we can obtain sufficient funding to cover a wider area within the conservancy. 

Throughout the month, predator visits were recorded once each at the Mkwananzi and Ndhlovu homesteads, and twice at the Chitope homestead; a total of four visits across all the homesteads included in the project.  No attacks were reported, indicating that the lights are still effective in deterring wild predators. These four visits were made by lions each time.  Some were captured on camera, including the image below of an adult female taken in the early hours of the morning towards the beginning of the month.

The Chitope homestead is unfortunately without a camera at the moment, since the one that had been installed was stolen and has not been recovered. At another homestead, the camera also captured a civet (pictured below); a different predator to those known to be causing problems within the community.  Although predators are in close proximity to the bomas that hold livestock at night, the lights have ensured they do not attempt to enter them.

As usual, this project is in urgent need of extra batteries for the camera-traps, as they have to be changed at two to three week intervals.  Also recently, the wind has been triggering some of the cameras; resulting in thousands of unnecessary images which have taken an even heavier toll on the batteries, thus shortening their lifespan.  Attempts to clear the grass have been made and the sensor level of the cameras adjusted to try to prevent this from happening again.  

With your help we can protect local farmers from losing their livelihoods to lions, and we can protect lions from losing their lives in a conflict battle they can never win.  Please show your support by making a donation here.


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.

If you are interested in joining the research team you can do so as a volunteer, or as a conservation research intern.

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