Reducing human-carnivore conflict, empowering communities and informing conservation planning in Tanzania\’s Ruaha landscape

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.