Within our conservation strategy review written in 2020, trustees agreed to investigate a further organisation or project run by a current conservation partner to donate towards so that we can increase our support for our focus areas to involve local communities and lions outside of protected areas. After a period of research and consultation with our conservation advisors we chose Lion Landscapes to be our next conservation partner and in May 2022 we donated £500 to go towards two camera traps for their community camera trap programme which is detailed below.
Who are Lion Landscapes?
Lion Landscapes was founded in April 2016 with the aim of addressing key challenges facing carnivore conservation today. In 2020 the Ruaha Carnivore Project merged with Lion Landscapes for even greater conservation impact. Their collaborative and adaptive approach strengthens conservation efforts to secure important landscapes for viable populations of large carnivores. They do this in three main ways through building partnerships, science and data and innovation. Wild lions require huge landscapes to thrive - often including land relied on by people and livestock. A Lion Landscape is a landscape that supports a viable population of wild lions, or any other pinnacle carnivore species. To do this it must also support healthy wild prey populations, healthy habitat, and benefit local people. Their lion conservation and research work focuses on how local communities, their livestock and lions can co-exist in a lion landscape.
Our main area of interest in Lion Landscapes is the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) which was established in 2009 by now joint Lion Landscapes CEO Dr. Amy Dickman. The RCP was created to help develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in the Ruaha landscape, a remote landscape in Tanzania. This vast landscape supports around 10% of all remaining lions, as well as one of the only four cheetah populations in East Africa with over 200 adults as well as the third biggest population of endangered African wild dogs as well as lage numbers of spotted hyenas and leopards.
What do they do?
The work carried out by Lion Landscapes in Ruaha is extremely important for carnivore conservation. However even in an area with abundant carnivores they are still facing many threats. These come in the form of conflict with the local people, as the park is unfenced and the land surrounding the Park is largely human-dominated whilst it still represents a key part of carnivore range. Even though the global value of these carnivore populations from a wildlife conservation value is huge to the local people they see very little or no value in their presence as they persistently cause a loss in significant costs through issues such as livestock attacks.
The work that Lion Landscapes carries out through the RCP works mainly to do two things. Firstly gathering baseline data on carnivore ecology and numbers which can help develop more appropriate and accurate conservation strategies. Secondly to work with the local communities closely to reduce human-carnivore conflict effectively. This is vital to the continuation of these predators in this globally important landscape. A lot of the work involves trying to connect benefits to the presence of wildlife in these areas where the people and their livestock live.
What work do we support?
Living alongside large carnivores such as lions can be a frightening and costly reality. These top predators can sometimes attack both humans (although rarely) and more commonly the livestock that these communities rely on. This can lead to killing these often endangered predators in retaliation. The work carried out by Lion Landscapes and historically the RCP such as boma reinforcement and anti-poisoning training have reduced the potential of this conflict but the benefits of allowing these carnivores nearby were still not really present. To keep these conservation actions long lasting and to increase the welfare of these local communities, the project works to make wildlife a true asset to the local people by connecting wildlife and community benefits together.
The three main pillars of their conservation approach are to: Stop the loss, reduce the cost and unlock the value of living with lions and other large carnivores.
One way of unlocking the value of the presence of lions and other carnivores in community areas is their innovative Community Camera Trapping Programme (CCT). This directly links the presence of wildlife on village land to community benefits that are tangible. These villagers monitor their own wildlife populations through camera traps and villages with the most wildlife receive the most additional benefits.
Community Camera Trapping Programme (CCT)
The initiative first started in Ruaha, as part of joint-CEO Dr. Amy Dickman’s Ruaha Carnivore Project. Instead of researchers setting out camera-traps on village land, local villagers were trained and employed to do it. Two CCT officers from each village are equipped with camera-traps, bikes and GPS units. The CCT officers are selected by the village themselves and know the best areas for wildlife on village land. Every image of a wild animal captured generates a certain number of points, depending on the likely conflict risk and how endangered the species is. For example a lion generates 15,000 points and an endangered African wild dog is the most valuable at 20,000 points. Collared individuals may even give more points.
Villages then compete against each other in groups of four on a quarterly basis to see who can generate the most points. All villages receive some benefits, but the winning gains ~US$2000 worth of additional community benefits, with the second third and fourth receiving $1500, $1000 and $500 respectively. The villages are grouped based on criteria such as proximity to the national park boundary and abundance of wildlife so each village has an equal chance to win within their group. At the end of the quarter, the villagers all get together to celebrate and benefits are distributed. The images are shown to all villagers so they can see the wildlife that has been photographed on their land which ensures they understand the connection between the benefits and the presence of wildlife.
The team at Lion Landscapes believe that the programme has proved successful in creating behavioural change, it engages and trains local people directly in wildlife monitoring in their land and helps to demonstrate an extremely clear link between the presence of wildlife, especially carnivores and the provision of local benefits. The programme has been recognised by the local government, village leaders and Park authorities as making a real impact both on local development and conservation. One critical part is that villagers keen to increase their benefits through greater wildlife populations can do so in many ways, such as by limiting poisoning, traditional hunts, bushmeat snaring or by setting aside specific areas of land for wildlife.
For more information please follow these two links here and here. We are proud to support this project and we have been able to contribute £500 ($600) to go towards two camera traps as part of this community based programme. We would like to thank Dr Amy Dickman and the Lion Landscapes team for their great cooperation so far and for the use of photos used on this page which show some of the lions captured on the camera traps in community areas and the local people installing camera traps and receiving community benefits. We look forward to continuing our support for this brilliant organisation long into the future.