Wilderness Safaris’ non-profit partner, Wilderness Wildlife Trust, is proud to provide ongoing support for human-wildlife conflict mitigation in Botswana, through the Community Guardianship and Livestock Protection Programme under the Wildlife and Communities Action Trust (WildCAT), an affiliate of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). This latest initiative, which commenced in August 2020, is also aiding in lion conservation in Botswana’s Ngamiland and the Central Districts.
The objective is to improve conservation outcomes for African lions through alleviating human-lion conflict and increasing predator tolerance, whilst at the same time improving rural livelihoods through guardianship and education.
Human-lion conflict is a major contributor to lion mortality, and tolerance for livestock losses is low amongst many rural communities in Botswana. The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) is one of the last remaining strongholds for African lions, and connectivity within the Makgadikgadi-Hwange-Chobe landscape is vital for the long-term genetic diversity and survival of lions and other predators. Yet, farmers living alongside lion populations suffer regular livestock depredation and feel disassociated from the benefits that wildlife brings.
The programme trains and employs local Community Guardians from the villages to assess and deliver locally-appropriate solutions for conflict. The focus of this funding application was to help support the Boteti Project, operating since 2017 in the village of Khumaga and its surrounding cattle posts. This area borders the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park (MPNP), and is situated on an important wildlife connectivity corridor to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, as well as north to the Okavango Delta and Hwange regions. A dual focus in this area was to provide educational workshops to help communities understand wild predator behaviour, with a particular focus on how to stay safe should they encounter a predator, and practical mitigation of livestock depredation through the construction of predator-resistant kraals.
Even in the midst of the COVID crisis in 2020, ten new predator-resistant kraals were constructed in conflict hotspots at cattle posts adjacent to the boundary with the MPNP in the Boteti area, taking the total number of these protected livestock enclosures up to 18. These enclosures use a simple combination of strong posts bolted together with cross-poles and 1.8 metre high diamond mesh to prevent predators gaining access. More than 1 300 head of livestock are now safeguarded, with these predator-proof kraals having proved 100% effective at preventing livestock losses to lions. Three full-time Community Guardians have also been employed through the programme, after undergoing an insightful five-day training workshop in Savuti in late 2020.
Lower than usual conflict was experienced during 2020, perhaps as a result of the increased human presence in rural areas as a result of unemployment due to COVD-19, and due to the positive impact of the project activities.
“Human-Wildlife Conflict is one of the major drivers of lion mortality across large areas of remaining lion range, and, with the continental population of this iconic species having nearly halved in the last 25 years, it’s imperative that we reduce conflict-related killings wherever possible. That’s why the Protect Programme of our Impact Strategy supports important projects like this one, and others that aim to move the needle from conflict to co-existence”, concludes Dr Neil Midlane, Wilderness Safaris Group Impact Manager.