Conserving Sloth bear in Gujarat through community outreach: A long term solution to alleviate the human sloth bear conflict

Sloth bears are found across the Indian sub-continent and 85% of its population lies in fragmented patches in India. Habitat desctruction and increasing anthropogenic pressure are two of the reasons of increasing human-sloth bear interactions.
Our goal is to reduce conflicts in the region by generating positive attitude towards the species and enhancing tolerance amongst people living in the sloth bear habitat.
We started our work by studying the distribution and status of sloth bear and understanding the reasons for conflicts in Gujarat, the western most limit of sloth bear distribution. To study the human dimension, we have scientifically assessed the perception of locals towards sloth bear in comparison to other wild animals and found that the local people are highly hostile for sloth bear. Our awareness campaigns among the tribal villages gave some encouraging results; this shows that there is a need to inculcate positivity and enhance the tolerance of locals towards the species. This can be achieved through providing true and scientific information about the species by involving the locals in the conservation work. We would like to initiate the community outreach programme in areas of high human-sloth bear conflcits in Gujarat. These programmes are aimed for initial two years at the conservation outreach center and train the locals, EDC members and Eco-Guides so that the outreach will sustain in future. Following are the activites we would like to do in this programme;
1.A state of the art Conservation Outreach Center to display all information about sloth bear.
2.To publish and circulate small pocket booklets on sloth bear among the local people.
3.Science based conservation education to children in the tribal schools.
4.Organizing Training of Trainers (volunteers and teachers) to disseminate scientific information about sloth bear.
5.Spreading conservation messages with the help of audio-visuals, signages, posters and fliers.

Space to Call their Own: Protecting Eselengei, Kenya

Encompassing over 200,000 acres, Eselengei is the northernmost tract of intact wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro (Greater Amboseli) ecosystem in southern Kenya. With every year, its importance and the need to conserve it is growing. Over the years, Big Life Foundation’s rangers have played a central role in controlling poaching and making the Greater Amboseli ecosystem a safer place. As a result, animals—especially elephants—are now venturing further from Amboseli National Park and deeper into Eselengei. They are also staying there for longer. This safe zone is not just important for elephants; Eselengei is also a stronghold of the ecosystem’s lion population, as well as home to a wide diversity of other species. However, Eselengei is surrounded by communities that are not always friendly to wildlife. Poachers, targeting bushmeat and sometimes ivory, operate along its northern boundaries, frequently picking off animals in the areas outside of the existing conservancy that lies within Eselengei. In 2018, five elephants were speared to death in a series of horrific events.

In response, Big Life plans to expand its successful wildlife protection and conservation model to Eselengei. This includes adding two permanent ranger outposts, fully equipped and manned by recruits from the Eselengei community, and supported by a Land Cruiser vehicle that will allow for rapid response to emergencies. These rangers will not just work to protect wildlife on Eselengei (often by providing support to the people who share this space), but will also respond when animals cross the invisible barrier into neighboring ‘hostile’ territory.

Also, Big Life will implement its Predator Compensation Fund (PCF) to Eselengei. The fund provides livestock owners with financial compensation for all verified losses of their animals to the ecosystem’s wild predators. This program has been immensely successful over the years, helping to increase the lion population throughout the ecosystem.

 

Predator Compensation Fund (PCF)

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.

Anti Poaching Units to protect Painted dogs

Poaching presents a huge threat to not only painted dogs but also all wildlife in the so-called “buffer zone” surrounding Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Large predators such as lion and hyena are also particularly vulnerable as they often scavenge from snare lines and indeed can be targeted deliberately. As the socioeconomic situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, pressures that drive poaching are escalating. Unemployment levels have reached new heights and with the majority of people in the region depending on erratic rainfalls, simply to survive at a subsistence level, they turn to illegal hunting practises.
The situation is deteriorating rapidly as highlighted by the recent outbreak of poaching with cyanide. Indeed a pack of nine painted dogs were recently found dead at a waterhole poisoned with cyanide. This new threat to carnivores is likely to increase as a result of the use of cyanide because of the scavenging done the carcasses left behind by the cyanide poachers.
The lack of recourse available to Zimbabwe’s Parks & Wildlife Management Authority exacerbates this dire situation. Poachers have enjoyed virtually unrestricted access to areas such as Dete, Ngamo and Tchotcholo, from which they have been able to move freely deep inside Hwange National Park. Poaching snares kill large animals indiscriminately, and the practice is threatening to decimate the small surviving populations of threatened species, many of which are already facing pressures of extinction through habitat destruction and climate change. The recent increase in the use of poisons such as cyanide further complicates the issue and there is dire need for a reliable informant network to be established.