Collaring for coexistence

Using technology to restore coexistence in Laikipia, Kenya

In partnership with KWS, Savannah Tracking, Tusk, The Nature Conservancy, Will's Africa Trust, University of Oxford WildCRU,

Save The Elephants, Living With Lions, Loisaba, Suyian, Sosian, Mugie, Ol Maisor, Segera, El Karama, Ol Jogi and Mpala

Our Collaring for Coexistence program is part of the Coexistence Co-op and supports our Lion Rangers  and Community Coexistence Training program.

We deploy and manage specialized lion GPS collars and provide livestock owners with real time lion movement data via a mobile app, developed by Save The Elephants. 

Why does collaring lions help protect lions and local livelihoods? 

We know from experience that collaring helps protect lions and livestock by giving us and livestock owners data on the lion’s movements. This data helps foster coexistence between lions and people in the following ways:

THE SITUATION & THE PROBLEM: Why we need you

 

The Laikipia and Samburu region of Kenya supports the 3rd largest lion population in the country, despite the presence of people and livestock throughout the region. Laikipia supports the most lions, thriving alongside livestock in densities that rival most National Parks in many areas. This is due to lower densities of livestock, plentiful wild prey and excellent livestock husbandry practices by core stakeholders. A resulting virtuous cycle of ‘Coexistence’, where lions rarely kill livestock and people rarely kill lions  has been the status quo for many years. In this way, Laikipia acts as a source of wild lions, replenishing the rest of the region, where lions face more threats.

 

But now Laikipia’s lions are in danger; unprecedented influxes of many thousands of livestock and people from other regions has threatened the viability of the area for lions. Some lions have been killed directly due to conflict with incoming livestock owners. There is less food for lions because wild prey has also been killed directly or out-competed by tens of thousands of incoming livestock.

 

The biggest threat to lions is that they have been exposed to large numbers of poorly defended livestock, and lions that have never killed livestock have started to view livestock as prey.

 

Past experience has shown us that livestock depredation behavior in lions, once learnt, is a longer term problem that will not be resolved when the large numbers of livestock and people from other areas go home. Rather, now visiting livestock are leaving the area, lions are facing a period of nutritional hardship, and some lions are turning to kill resident livestock, that they previously co-existed with without incident. In short, an alarming number of Laikipia’s lions have developed a dangerous habit - people whose livelihood is threatened by lions often respond by killing the lions.

 

Lions and livestock owners in this region desperately need help, and they need it quickly before conflicts escalate.


 

THE SOLUTION: COLLARING LIONS

 

Luckily long term research in the area has shown us that conflict between lions and people can be effectively managed by collaring and monitoring lion movements, and giving livestock owners access to real time lion movement data. This allows livestock owners to be pro-active and keep their livestock away from lions, or increase their protection of livestock when close to lions.

 

How do the collars work?

One adult lioness in each pride, and one adult male in each male coalition is collared with a GPS collar that sends us hourly locations for the lion. Access to lion movement data is given to livestock owners via a user-friendly app (provided by Save the Elephants) that maps the lion locations on google earth. Even if livestock owners don’t have the same technology as all of us, almost all of them have access to smartphones and a cell network.

 

Is there anything else?

Yes -- Boma Shields.  We combine monitoring and information sharing with the testing and further development of Savannah Tracking’s Boma Shield system. This system responds to chips in the lion’s collar by setting off alarms and lights when the collared lion approaches livestock within a certain distance.

 

The harmless deterrents used (lights and alarms) often stop a lion attacking on their own but the system also ensures that human boma guards are awake and ready for the lion when it arrives. Our previous research has shown that lions who have repeated low success at killing livestock, reduce their attempts. This system will therefore better defend livestock against lions, and retrain livestock killing lions into thinking that livestock is off the menu.

Are there any risks?

The good new is that we have years of experience and we have never had a lion injured by a collar. Lions are completely unaffected by their collars and remain as wild as they always were, unaware that they are being tracked by livestock owners. Rather than use the information to help them kill lions, livestock owners feel more informed, experience less conflict, and are much more tolerant of the lions in their area.

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