On the 3rd January the ALERT team received reports from associates at Lion Encounter, Victoria Falls that three lions had been shot at Monde village, approx 15kms outside Victoria Falls town in Western Zimbabwe.
The resident researcher at our Victoria Falls project followed up these reports by visiting the area and speaking directly with those involved. According to a local gentleman the incident took place at 1530h on the 2nd after the three lions had been observed, by a passing driver, attacking a cow next to the main Victoria Falls to Bulawayo road. The cow was part of a larger herd that had dispersed and moved out of sight of their herders who had taken shelter from heavy rain under a tree.
The driver alerted the herders to the attack. The lions, an adult lioness and her 2 cubs, aged approx. 14 months, broke the cow’s spine before fleeing as villagers chased them away with dogs. The cow was then mercifully killed and the head removed to be used as bait to lure the lions back.
By 2000h the lions had returned to the bait where they were then shot by a local professional hunter with granted permission by the Hwange Rural Council District.
These incidents of direct human-lion conflict are a continuing pressure upon wild populations and are widespread amongst many lion range countries. As prey availability diminishes and suitable habitat shrinks lions are drawn more frequently into human dominated areas where they often meet their end. Studies of lion movements and behaviour have shown many will avoid human settlements where possible as they induce high levels of stress. However livestock act as a very easy substitute for normal prey and in areas such as Monde where livestock roam freely, sometimes unguarded, lion attacks are common. Lions will mostly attack under the cover of night whilst herds are kept in sometimes very poorly made boma’s (enclosures), yet attacks during daylight do occur.
Work is being undertaken in many lion range countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania to improve boma protection where livestock is kept at night. It is hoped that thickening, strengthening and enlarging boma walls will prevent lion attacks but studies upon improved boma’s have shown lions are capable of breaking through or leaping over a vast variety of wall types. The costs involved in these programs is also very high for each household, up to GB$1,200 per boma - far beyond the reach of most livestock owners.
In late 2012 ALERT began discussions with Kenyan born Sandy Simpson who has modified and implemented a system created by a young Kenyan boy 2 years ago. Richard Turere, 11 years old, of the Kitengela area in Kenya created a system to help protect his family’s livestock boma at night from lion attacks. Richard took a handful of torches, a second hand car battery and a small solar panel to make an automated lighting system around the perimeter of the boma. After installing the flashing lights around the boma 2 years ago, Richard’s family has not reported a single lion attack since.
Sandy has taken this system, costing a more reasonable US$200 and installed units across Kenya and Tanzania. Those communities with the system have reported a dramatic decrease in lion attacks as well as the lights deterring other predators and elephants. Over time it is hoped that the costs of this system can be further reduced to make them more accessible to affected communities.
Prior to the shooting of the three lions at Monde ALERT had begun talks with the village Chief, relevant community members and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority regarding the installation of lighting systems in the area. It is hoped the systems will prevent further conflict incidents and lion deaths as well as provide crucial data upon the effectiveness of the lights upon lion predation and movements in such areas. Research validating the lighting system’s ability to deter predators successfully could see the system used across all lion range countries in human-lion conflict area’s.
Although the majority attacks take place overnight, livestock and people are still at risk during the day from lions. This may become an increasing issue if as a result of improved livestock protection at night lions adapt their hunting strategies to be more active during the day. Those lion attacks during daylight hours often occur when livestock is simply unattended and/or has roamed astray. ALERT also supports the African Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) and assists the expansion and further implementation of their livestock husbandry techniques that can contribute to decreasing attacks such as has happened in this instance, whilst also increasing food security for communities implementing their proven land & livestock management methods.
Currently ALERT is seeking funding for the lighting deterrent project to begin as soon as funding is secured. 10 motion camera traps are needed to install around protected boma’s to monitor lion movements and behaviour as a part of the vital research on the lighting system’s impact on lion livestock predation.
$250/£155 can buy buy one camera trap. $200/ £124 can buy one lighting system.
Your support is crucial in helping to directly prevent further lion killings.
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