The Kwando Carnivore Project is based in the Zambezi Region of Namibia, which is central to the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), a mosaic landscape falling across the international borders of five countries. The KCP is a locally based project and focuses on applied research and conservation of large carnivores as well as human-carnivore conflict mitigation.. Our field work involves conducting regular surveys in protected areas in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and in adjacent conservancies with Community Game Guards to ensure that large carnivore populations are stable and/or to identify any conservation concerns. In addition we monitor specific species such as lions and in future wild dogs and spotted hyaenas to understand how they move through the human-dominated landscape and to identify conservation challenges. Our mitigation work involves building lion-proof kraals to protect cattle from lions and other large carnivores in areas that lie between national parks. The prevention of retaliatory killing of carnivores by communities for predating on livestock facilitates connectiviy for carnivores to disperse through human dominated landscapes and link with resident carnivore populations in protected areas within the immediate KAZA landscape. As the KCP is a small, locally based project, we achieve larger goals such as improving livelihoods of communities, habitat and wildlife corridor protection by linking with conservation partners such as Panthera, WWF in Namibia, WWF Germany, Ministry of Environment, Namibia Nature Foundation, Namibia Chamber of Environment and IRDNC.
For centuries the Maasai have practiced a traditional rite of passage to manhood: hunting and killing lions. Today, there are too many people and too few lions. Realising that the traditional Maasai way of reaching manhood will not have a future, the cultural “fathers” asked Big Life Foundation (BLF) to eliminate lion hunting from the Maasai culture.
In response, BLF partnered with the Maasai to conceive and raise funds for this first-ever Maasai Olympics, part of the larger initiative to help to shift the attitudes of the Maasai toward a commitment to wildlife and habitat conservation as a preferred way of life in the 21st century.
This larger initiative consisting of two parts, conservation education and sports.
In order to reach a large audience, a film was produced exclusively for this project and used to teach the young generation that lion killing is no longer culturally acceptable and must stop now, as must the killing of elephants and all wildlife species. Failure to follow the “path of conservation” and reap its economic benefits will result in an unsustainable future of the Maasai people.
Competition in sports starts at local level. The warriors receive basic sports training in six events and compete for selection to one of four teams across the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem.
At regional level, each team will compete in organized competitions against the other three villages.
At ecosystem-wide level, the highly important and most wanted Olympic Day is waiting. This highlight takes place before national and international media, celebrities, government officials, friends, family, and tourists. The four villages will compete for event medals, prizes, and for the overall winners a trophy and prized bull. Thousands of people attend.
Girls being the motivators behind warriors wanting to hunt lion, are also potential conservation advocates and are included in the education program and in two competitions at Olympics Day.
In 2003, in response to an imminent threat of local lion extinction, Maasailand Preservation Trust (MPT) which in 2010 became the Big Life Foundation (BLF), in close collaboration with the local community, conceived a first-of-its-kind predator compensation programme. The intention was to better balance the costs and benefits of living with wildlife and thereby replace conflict and retaliation with tolerance and cohabitation.
This novel conservation strategy remains one of the most far-reaching and effective projects, the first of its kind, implemented in the Amboseli-Kilimanjaro Maasailand ecosystem.
One of many key aspects of PCF is that it acts as an umbrella of protection – not only preventing lion extinction but also providing coverage for other persecuted species, such as hyena, cheetah, leopard, wild dog and jackal.
The raising of livestock in Maasailand is a vital activity for the community’s subsistence. Consequently, predators are under constant threat from livestock owners who view them as a danger to their livestock and kill them in retribution for livestock losses. Retaliatory killing is the major threat to Africa’s lion population. Recent estimates show that 20 years ago 200,000 lions lived in Africa, today there are less than 25,000, with no more than 2,000 residing in Kenya.
The success achieved by PCF in its past years is arguably unequalled in African conservation:
Since inception, lion killing has virtually stopped on Mbirikani Group Ranch, a Maasai community of 10,000 individuals. Only 6 lions were killed by livestock owners during the first nine years of the project. During that same period, more than 200 lions were killed on the neighbouring group ranches where the PCF programme did not (yet) exist. The same community that now protects lions killed 22 in just 18 months prior to introduction of PCF.
A key factor to PCF’s success is the requirement that the entire community must support the objectives of the programme or compensation will cease for everyone.
Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape is globally important for large carnivores. It supports the world’s second biggest lion population, comprising 10% of the world\’s lions, one of only four large cheetah populations in East Africa, the world\’s third biggest population of endangered African wild dogs, and vital populations of leopards, spotted hyaenas and other wildlife species. However, these populations are threatened by extremely high rates of human-carnivore conflict around Ruaha National Park: this area has the highest documented rate of lion killing in the world. This conflict is driven by carnivore attacks on livestock, a lack of benefits from wildlife, cultural lion killins, and poor local awareness of wildlife or conservation issues. The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) is working directly with local communities to safeguard their livestock, develop appropriate and meaningful benefit initiatives which are linked directly to the presence of wildlife on village land, engage traditional warriors to become lion conservationists rather than lion killers, and provide training, education and outreach on livestock husbandry, wildlife and conservation. This area is also extremely understudied, limiting effective planning and management, so RCP conducts ecological research to inform conservation planning. The project was established in 2009, and has grown from a team of 3 people to over 60 people, 95% of whom are local Tanzanians. The project has been very successful: in the core study area, attacks on livestock have been reduced by over 60%, people see meaningful benefits, partcularly in the their priority areas of healthcare, education and veterinary health, attitudes towards wildlife have improved, bans on cultural hunting have been put in place by the community, and carnivore killings have decreased by over 80%. However, this is a huge area so we need to continue our work and expand it further around Ruaha and beyond for maximum conservation impact.