Following the installation of a predator deterrent lighting system at the African Centre for Holistic Management, the ALERT research team headed out into the rural Jambezi communal lands to install another unit for trial.
Human-wildlife conflict in the Jambezi area has seen numerous heads of livestock lost to predators and many crop fields raided and destroyed by elephants. It is believed the majority of wildlife is roaming out of the Hwange National Park protected area, a 14,651km2 wilderness with little fencing allowing much of its wildlife to move freely, often into areas of high human density.
The habits of lions appears to result in small prides and lone animals moving into human settlement areas during the dry season months, similar to those seasonal patterns of lions in high conflict area in East Africa. Incidents are not however restricted to just dry season months with reports this year of coming during February also.
On the 10th April the team and representatives from Lion Encounter Victoria Falls, met with community leader Chief Shana to discuss the system and progress of the project since an initial meeting with the Chief and other community members in January. Chief Shana was pleased to see action being taken to tackle the continuing issue of livestock losses to lions. After discussing specific areas of lion conflict incidence Chief Shana advised the team to head a further 50km into the bush to the Sidinda ward to visit Mr. Nyathi’s homestead.
After a long and dusty drive into the dense, never-ending scrubland the team met with Mr. Nyathi returning from tending to his grazing cattle. Mr. Nyathi invited the team into his homestead and shared the turmoil he and his family had been experiencing with wild lions. Six large cows had been lost since January this year, three of which were killed at night after breaking out of their kraal in panic due to the presence of lions. Other losses occurred during the day whilst cattle were out grazing; an increasing problem, which is dependent upon changes to livestock husbandry practices rather than deterrent systems.
Mr. Nyathi and his father explained they often observed lions in the area especially during June and latter dry season months. Physical attacks on livestock had however increased this year and the serious lack of rain during the wet season would perhaps see a higher presence of lions earlier on.
After hearing about these losses the research team and conservationist Sandy Simpson set about installing the lights around the cattle kraal. Infrared camera traps were also installed to monitor the surrounding area at night in hopes of gathering footage of any approaching predators.
Mr Nyathi (left) & his father with solar panel Installing the remote camera sensors
The unit was put in place in three hours and its components, including a small battery and solar panel, were explained to Mr. Nyathi. Mr. Nyathi was thrilled with the system and to be a part of the study.
The research team will be visiting Mr. Nyathi weekly to monitor progress and gather camera trap footage. It is hoped, depending upon results of these trial units, that more systems will be put in place in the community areas alongside more camera traps for monitoring purposes. If you would like to support the study please use the donate buttons on this page.