Human-carnivore conflict is a huge problem for both villagers and large carnivores around Ruaha. The carnivores cause substantial livestock depredation, imposing very high costs on local people, and are often killed as a result. Helping to reduce such conflict is the main focus of the project, and involves two themes: reducing the costs that carnivores impose on local people, and developing tangible local benefits from their presence on village land. Together, these approaches should significantly reduce conflict, and substantially improve the situation for both people and predators.
Large carnivores often attack livestock on village land, causing severe hardship for local people. We are working with the villagers to determine which strategies – such as the use of dogs, herders, early-warning systems, noisemakers, scarecrows etc – work best in terms of reducing attacks. We then train and employ ‘conflict officers’ in these best-practice techniques, and they train other villagers across the study area. In addition, we identify those livestock enclosures at highest risk of carnivore attack, and help fortify them using sturdy wire and local materials. These approaches are already resulting in a marked reduction in carnivore attacks, so we intend to continue and extend them across the study area.
In order for people to want carnivores around, they must see a direct and relevant benefit from their presence. We have worked closely with local communities to see which benefits they would most appreciate from having large carnivores on village land, and they chose education and healthcare. Therefore, we have developed the ‘Kids 4 Cats’ initiative, where international schools partner with local village schools and help them acquire vital equipment. In addition, we are working with the UK Rotary Club to help equip a healthcare clinic in the centre of the study area. People are starting to recognise that carnivore presence can result in clear benefits, and we hope that this, in tandem with reduced costs, will substantially reduce antagonism and carnivore killing.