While many environmental stories grab headlines nowadays, there is one growing ecological problem that few media outlets are covering. That problem is the increasing clashes between lions and humans in Africa.
Lions, hungry for a quick meal, are feeding on villages’ livestock in Tanzania and Kenya with increasing frequency. Livestock is highly valuable in Africa, and when lions snag a goat or cow, quite often the village embarks on what are known as a “revenge killings.” These revenge killings, unfortunately, wipe out entire prides of lions, as villagers will sometime place out poison on an animal carcass to quickly kill any predators nearby.
CFACT, in connection with lion conservationist Patricia Vaughn, is sponsoring a solution.
Lions most frequently hunt at night, but it was discovered that when there is significant light around an area, the lions stay at bay. Livestock are kept in what are called “bomas,” which are a type of enclosure, but the bomas cannot always keep the lions out.
Vaughn and her team travel to bomas around Tanzania, setting up light fixtures that strobe in a fashion that makes the lions stay away. The lights are small enough so that they can be powered by solar for up to five years, meaning there is no extra burden on the limited electricity generation in many of these areas. As soon as the lights are set up, lion appearances near the bomas diminish significantly.
“We did 8 bomas [in the Sinya area, next to the Enduimet wildlife management area], on the Kenya border. As soon as lights get through customs, we’re going back to do more there,” Ms. Vaughn explained. “Lions have moved in from Amboseli last winter because it wasn’t flooding and decided to stay.”
Vaughn is working with local authorities as well, in particular Kotikash Ngoya, a female Enduimet Ranger who helped affix lights and coordinate some efforts with Vaughn.
“We’re also planning on doing bomas in Ololosokwan area next to Serengeti and near Mikumi National Park in the middle of [Tanzania],” Ms. Vaughn went on. “The lions have been wandering out of parks because of the rain. [This] makes it easier for them to travel and have water but makes it more difficult for us. Roads are terrible in places, but we’ll persevere.”
Villages across Tanzania and Kenya are clamoring for lights, as it is a simple solution that protects both the property of the villagers and minimizes the conflict with lions.
While Vaughn’s efforts have focused on Tanzania, CFACT and Vaughn’s team are planning on branching out to Kenya and begin helping affix lights to bomas there as well.
These lights are a technological, free market solution to the environmental problem of lion and human conflicts. As the program continues to grow and succeed, CFACT and Vaughn will look to expand to additional areas and possibly other continents with similar predator problems.