Lion conservation workers in Botswana have set an example to be followed by facing the problem of human-wildlife conflict head on, and consequently have had great success recently. Due to a huge amount of livestock in the same area as lion territory, livestock conflicts occurred all too often. Even small losses can be devastating to a subsistence livestock owner, and villagers had lost a lot of cattle in recent years due to the local predators. As livestock owners were often at their job, or in the village attending to other matters, and the children who historically herded livestock who are now attending school, the noble herder of the past is now merely a memory.
Due to these frustrating conflicts, the villagers felt the need to take action against the lions, which often involved the cats being killed. However, Andrew Stein, a repeated Big Cats Initiative Grantee, and the founder and director of CLAWS, explained to National Geographic that he spent time talking to the affected livestock farmers, which was the key to a successful working future for everyone involved. Their community outreach then took off, and they built a foundation of mutual respect over the past two and a half years. Their focus is on providing useful information for the communities, including alerting the villagers when collared lions approach the village, so that they do not kill the lions.
This year they are planning on beginning a livestock herder training programme, which will highlight the traditional knowledge that has kept livestock safe for millennia. Together with this, they will factor in and provide basic technology, as well as lessons on rangeland management and predator protection, which will provide the herder with certification to make him a valuable asset to the community. They are also planning to use incentives for strong herding practices, that will allow livestock, lions and people to coexist as they historically have done for thousands of years. The lion conservationists believe that goodwill, respectful communication and partnerships are the key to sustaining positive and productive relationships with local communities, which in turn protects all wildlife species in the area.
IMAGE CREDIT:imagex / 123RF Stock Photo
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