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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Above photo: Community Guardians record details of conflict incidents, kraal construction, carnivore sightings, and more.
As the apex species of their ecosystems, large carnivores—including lions, cheetahs, and leopards— require vast stretches of secure and connected habitat. Such landscapes allow them to hunt prey and establish their own territory apart from other, competing large carnivores.
Increasingly, large carnivore habitats are under threat: As human populations grow, wildlife habitats become fragmented or destroyed. Carnivores may be forced to move through now human-dominated areas.
When animals like large carnivores enter human-inhabited areas, they often prey on livestock, which has major economic value and cultural significance to many rural communities. People’s safety and livelihoods are in jeopardy and the carnivores face the threat of retaliatory killings after loss of livestock.
WWF, its partners, and local communities are working together to reduce conflict between people and carnivores. By better understanding how large carnivores move through landscapes and implementing practices on the ground, we can prevent future conflicts.
In southern Africa, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) is the world’s largest transboundary terrestrial conservation area. Connecting a mosaic of protected and communal lands across Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. KAZA is a vital habitat for southern Africa’s large carnivores-- home to nearly 20% of African lions, 15% of the world’s cheetahs, 25% of Africa’s wild dogs, as well as leopards, spotted hyenas, and brown hyena. All these species live and move across this landscape alongside 2.7 million people.
To reduce conflict, it’s necessary to understand where and how large carnivores range and hot spots of carnivore activity within the landscape. This information helps identify areas where conflict management efforts are most needed. Data on carnivore populations, their movements, and any human-wildlife incidents can inform land-use and management decisions and lower the risks for people and wildlife.
Satellite collars are one of the most common tools used to track large carnivores. WWF’s partners—including CLAWS Conservancy and WildCRU in Botswana, and the Kwando Carnivore Trust in Namibia—use data from the collars to identify important wildlife corridors across Botswana and Namibia as well as additional areas where conflict management approaches could reduce conflict.
Identifying carnivore corridors and conflict hotspots helps guide decisions, such as which conflict management approaches to implement and where to do so. To prevent large carnivores from preying on livestock, WWF’s partners implement two approaches: building predator-proof kraals and establishing lion alert systems.
Kraals are secured and fenced-in enclosures that protect cattle and goats from potential carnivore attacks. WWF’s partners, WildCRU and CLAWS in Botswana, Kwando Carnivore Trust in Namibia, and Wildlife Conservation Action in Zimbabwe, help build both permanent and mobile predator-proof kraals, as well as reinforce traditional kraals in conflict hotspots.
Permanent kraals feature sturdy wooden poles along the perimeter, strong metal fencing, and a reinforced gate. Mobile kraals are made from canvas and allow communities to easily dismantle and relocate them. Mobile kraals also provide farmers with a fertile area for crops due to manure left behind by livestock. Both types of kraals have proved effective in keeping carnivores away from livestock with results ranging from 70-100% effective.
WWF partners also use a lion alert system to help communities protect livestock. CLAWS and Kwando Carnivore Trust use satellite collar data to alert communities when a collared lion comes in proximity to villages. Through an SMS message or call to community members, farmers have a chance to gather their livestock into kraals or move away from the area when lions are approaching.
Any long-term protection of large carnivore populations must include communities in decision-making and management. With support from WWF, WildCRU in Botswana and Wildlife Conservation Action in Zimbabwe train and employ local women and men as Community Guardians. The Guardians help reduce conflict in their communities by building and reinforcing kraals, monitoring wildlife movement, responding to incidents of human-wildlife conflict, and advising farmers on livestock management practices to prevent livestock predation. CLAWS also employs local community members to help their carnivore research and conflict management.
In northwestern Botswana, the San Indigenous people monitor wildlife along and adjacent to the border with Namibia. For generations, the San have tracked wildlife and shared their knowledge with their descendants. In fact, San trackers are 98% accurate in identifying species and reconstructing complex wildlife behaviors. More recently, much of this traditional knowledge is being lost as community elders pass away.
WWF supports Kalahari Wildlands Trust’s work with the San people to preserve their traditional knowledge and share it with younger generations through community-based, cross-generational wildlife monitoring teams. The data collected from the teams also helps identify important wildlife corridors, potential areas for wildlife recovery, and long-term management needs.
WWF’s efforts to help people and large carnivores coexist in KAZA wouldn’t be possible without partnerships, local communities, and collaboration on all levels. Together, we work to better understand the abundance, distribution, and movements of large carnivores and other wildlife in our ongoing efforts to secure a better future for people and wildlife.