As always, we are trying to come up with new ways to help people and lions live together, and currently partnering in some exciting new innovations.
We have recently deployed the second prototype of The Predator Protection Device (PPD), developed by Chris Vargas and the University of Notre Dame Dept of Computer Science, in an area where lions have been regularly attacking livestock. The project has been funded by Chris Vargas, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation and National Geographic. The PPD builds on the ingenious ‘Lion Lights’ designed by the young Maasai boy Richard Turere to imitate human activities at bomas (livestock enclosures). The PPD is designed to periodically emit both light and sound patterns, imitating torch light and human voices, or other disturbing sounds. Emissions are totally randomised to try to reduce habituation. PPDs are packed in single, easy to carry and deploy units, each with its own built in solar charger. So far, our test of the prototype PPDs is going very well. After two weeks of deployment, the PPDs have been 100% effective, whereas control bomas have been attacked by lions 3 times. We continue to watch to see if habituation becomes a problem but our hopes are high. Read more.
We are also helping to test the ‘Lion Shield’, a system designed by Savannah Tracking that not only defends livestock from lions but will also help us to retrain lions that have become used to killing livestock. Lion Shield comprises a GPS collar, allowing us to track the lion’s movements, and an alarm system. The GPS collar contains a chip that triggers a loud alarm/lights stationed at bomas when, and only when, the collared lion approaches - sensors can tell the lion’s direction of movement and distance from the boma. This alone should act to scare the lion away, but the system also acts to alert the people at the boma to come out and defend their livestock before the lion even arrives. Using deterrents like this could make it almost impossible for livestock killers to access livestock, and help persuade them to go back to killing wild prey.
Affordable technologies like these reduce livestock losses and compliment other efforts to engage local livestock owners in the conservation of lions. We will continue to let you know how the Laikipia lions respond to them.