Every year, significant numbers of livestock are killed, threatening the livelihoods of these rural communities. As a consequence, large carnivores find themselves persecuted in retaliation for these livestock losses.
To help address this, 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. Night-guard flashing lights have been installed on kraals located within conflict hotspot areas alongside camera traps that will assist in assessing 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.
In November, our team began installation of the lights and camera-traps, with the permission and help from the Matetsi community. The team comprised of Dr. Jackie Abell (ALERT Director of Research and Reader in Conservation and Social Psychology at Coventry University), Bob Mandinyenya (ALERT Principal Researcher for the area), Simbarashe Gombedza and Rumbidzai Magwiro (undergraduates of University of Zimbabwe currently interning with ALERT), Dr. James Bennett (Senior Lecturer at Coventry University), Alderman Muzamba (Ward Councillor for Matetsi) and Mr Fanuel Nleya (Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority).
Identification of kraals to be tested with the lights, and their subsequent installation, took place over a period of two weeks. 15 homesteads were identified based on records of the attacks they have experienced historically and more recently. Most homesteads selected are located at the periphery of settlements in areas where the community borders protected areas such Matetsi Safari Area, forestry areas and the Zambezi National Park. Prior to installation of the lights each homestead was interviewed to assess the trends of attacks, and to gain information to help decide on the best positioning of the lights and camera-traps.
Lights have been installed within the Masikili, Sikabelo, Kalala, Woodlands, Breakfast and Khaya-lethu areas of the Matetsi Environmental Conservation Area (ECA). This Matetsi ECA is an area being managed under the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme, which encourages communities to sustainably manage wildlife resources found within their areas.
Rainy season is considered to be the worst when it comes to predator attacks within these communities, thus our intervention comes at a good time for monitoring the effectiveness of the lights. However, the camera-traps will monitor the response of predators to the lights over the next 12 months, with staff and volunteers visiting each homestead once a week to download footage from the camera traps, code the images, and take records on the number of attacks that occur.
In 2016 we shall also implement a conservation education programme for adults and children in the area, to include practical and theoretical workshops in the conservation of local wildlife, the continued mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, and effective husbandry practices.