Livestock Protection Program
The Livestock Protection Programme is central to AfriCat’s support of farming communities in north-west Namibia.
The LLP, entered into upon the signing of an agreement between community and AfriCat, encourages farmers to adopt innovative and arid-adaptive livestock-management and farming techniques, most importantly to improve on livestock protection methods. The agreement is founded on an understanding that AfriCat will practically support farmers with livestock protection; the farmers, in return, undertake to cooperate with AfriCat in relaying information about lion movements and commit to the non-persecution of carnivores.
LLP primarily involves the erection of strong nocturnal Kraals (“bomas”), the upgrade of existing ones, and the reinstatement of herdsmen. AfriCat Kraals may be fixed or mobile and are built in a central location chosen by the community, in close proximity to a water source, in order for all community members to have access to them.
Kraals are key to keeping livestock safe during peak carnivore hunting time, so AfriCat actively inspect and maintain Kraals to ensure that they are predator proof, and they do their job!
To date, the LPP has been adopted by #Khoa di //Hoas, Ehi-Rovipuka and Omatendeka Conservancies, while the Anabeb and Orupupa Conservancies are in the process of signing up. Regular meetings and workshops within each Conservancy have evolved, and real potential for change, in both attitude and practice, of community members is evident..
THE EARLY-WARNING SYSTEM
Information regarding the movement of carnivores is crucial to feed Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation. Understanding patterns of behaviour, geographic positioning and proximity to borders is extremely helpful in the search for practical solutions on lands shared by both people and wildlife, to ensure that coexistence is possible.
The AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project (AHLRP) began in 2013, in order to establish lion population numbers, dynamics and migratory patterns within the Hobatere Concession Area and on adjacent farmland. Lion are fitted with GPS-Satellite Collars, which enable their positions to be monitored every two hours, and for their movements to be tracked. The data, which this project gathers, alongside information provided by community members on lion sightings and livestock attack or losses, is collated and patterns of behaviour of lion are analysed in a bid to increase understanding, and to help in the Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation process.
AfriCat’s Early-Warning System (EWS) uses the information gained through research and greater community collaboration, in order for Lion Guards to notify farmers, using Whatsapp or SMS, when Lion are likely to be near to a Kraal or village. In response, farmers have the opportunity to pre-emptively safeguard their livestock by bringing them into the protected Kraals before nightfall and by being more vigilant.
Lion Guards come into their own when lion threats are heightened, by offering additional community support in the form of night patrols when Lion are in the area, at times camping alongside vulnerable property. Should carnivores pose a threat to the livestock, the AfriCat Lion Guards and volunteers are the first line of defence, deterring attack through non-lethal means.
A welcome benefit of the Early-Warning System is the increase in trust and communication between the AfriCat Lion Guards and communal farmers. Always keen to know the whereabouts of the carnivores, communities have begun to engage in the preservation and protection of livestock and Lion alike.
One of the challenges to the Early-Warning System, like much of AfriCat’s work, is the limited communication technology in the rural areas where AfriCat’s CCCP operates. There is a limit to the scope and impact until communication improves. Therefore, AfriCat are raising funds to invest in a VHF radio system in order to communicate further afield.
In 2018, ‘Lion Lights’ have been added to AfriCat’s arsenal of measures to keep the livestock safe and mitigate Human-Wildlife Conflict. Made in Kenya, 200 Lion Lights have been distributed to communal farmers in known “hot-spots”. They offer an inexpensive, yet effective tool to deter Lions from approaching livestock kraals. Working by blinking and flashing, the lights replicate the movement of people with torches in the dark, in order to deter lurking carnivores.
So far, no Kraal with ‘Lion Lights’ has been attacked, nor threatened by lion, demonstrating the success of this innovative technology. Moving forward, the hope is that more ‘Lion Lights’ can be distributed across communities whose farming practices border Hobatere and the Etosha National Park.
All of these initiatives require close cooperation and regular communication with farmers and Conservancy communities. Relationships are key, as they build trust between AfriCat and the important stakeholders. As livestock become better protected, losses are reduced, farmers begin to trust in ‘new’ methodology and have faith in potential coexistence with wildlife. AfriCat is a unique source of much-needed information and support in its working-territory.
AfriCat plans to build on these relationships by becoming further involved in Youth and Women’s groups, participating in community gatherings and expanding scope of Environmental Education in local school wildlife clubs.