Empower Big Cats Conservation Today
Every week, lions, cheetahs, leopards, and other vulnerable wildlife are being killed as they are forced to share their habitat with an increasing human population. Our community-driven projects alleviate human-wildlife conflict and monitor the health of wildlife populations under our flagship Maasai Steppe Big Cats Conservation Initiative:
- Living Walls. Unique, culturally appropriate and environmentally-friendly enclosures protect livestock from lions, keep lions out of the way of Maasai spears and contribute to habitat protection.
- Warriors for Wildlife. Community members collect and analyze valuable information about human-wildlife conflicts, diffuse conflict, and work on anti-poaching patrols, all while learning valuable GPS, data entry and teamwork skills.
- Wildlife Monitoring. Program officers, assisted by community members, monitor the health of wildlife populations to measure program impacts.
|Your dollars make a difference – for people and for wildlife.Funds go directly toward programs that protect livelihoods and save lions. For example, our flagship initiative, Living Walls, halts the killing of big cats by eliminating the region’s largest source of human-wildlife conflict, while protecting more than 5
The northern Maasai Steppe stretches across 20,000 square kilometers, covered in grassland, Acacia woodland and Commiphora bushland. Species include the most threatened population of African lions, as well as leopard, cheetah, spotted and striped hyenas, the highly endangered African wild dog, and many herbivores, including a rare southern population of Fringe-eared oryx and a globally significant population of elephants. In this semi-arid landscape, the pastoralist Maasai people also depend absolutely upon the availability of water and food for themselves and for the livestock herds that form their economic foundation.
Despite its size, the Maasai Steppe holds only two small protected areas (Tarangire National Park, 2600 square kilometers; and Lake Manyara National Park, 330 square kilometers). Patterns of seasonal rain across the Steppe create a constant movement of prey species in and out of those parks. Lions and other predators such as cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and African wild dog rely on the community land outside of these parks for their survival. Our programs focus on ensuring that wildlife have the habitat and food resources they need to flourish alongside growing human populations.
With more than 350 Living Walls currently in place, we are safely securing 75,000 head of livestock nightly and positively impacting approximately 7000 adults and children. Local monitoring shows lion attacks on livestock dropped precipitously and the Maasai kill fewer lions each year. In fact, no lions have been killed at corrals fortified with Living Walls.
For those born and raised on the Maasai Steppe, however, predators are a threat to valuable livestock, particularly when livestock are left in vulnerable situations. When livestock are killed by wildlife, the herders retaliate by most often chasing and killing the lions they find. Our most successful program, Living Walls, replaces traditional livestock enclosures with fortified corrals, protecting 100% of the livestock that are kept within them. We developed this method hand-in-hand with the community.
|Living Walls||Traditional Enclosures|
|- Fence posts made from native Commiphora limbs, that when planted will take root and flourish, and never need to be replaced.- Chain link barrier resists all predators- Commiphora grows in height and density, further deterring predators by providing a visual and physical barrier
- Requires no upkeep throughout the year
|- Fence posts (if present) made from downed trees, which eventually rot or degrade in the sun and must be replaced.- Enclosure walls made from acacia thorn branches- Thorn brush easily penetrated (or jumped over) by predators
- Women are expected to regularly gather branches, which is time consuming, and leads to clearing of native plants
Major benefits of our Living Walls program:
- Cultural appropriateness
- Contribute to habitat protection
- Save livestock
- Prevent Maasai warriors from killing lions
- Demonstrates the value of shared knowledge
- Serves as a regular point of outreach into communities
- Allows us to collect consistent data on predator attacks and their characteristics
- Serves as a model to groups in other parts of Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, who are now adapting and utilizing this technology.
In connection with Living Walls, we have developed community-led teams of Warriors for Wildlife. Warriors for Wildlife are local community members, facilitated by the African People & Wildlife Fund, who assist in our efforts around wildlife monitoring, big cat conflict prevention and enforcement of wildlife laws. Activities include:
- Anti-poaching patrols
- Verifying and recording information about attacks on livestock by predators
- Outreach to communities to diffuse human-wildlife conflict situations
- Assisting with wildlife monitoring and tracking activities
- Educating communities about the importance of resource management
Job training and opportunities for learning beyond primary school (Grade 5) are rare on the Maasai Steppe, and opportunities to work in urban areas are increasingly drawing young people away from rural areas. However, being one of our Warriors allows community members to learn new skills and earn income for their families while remaining close to home. We have been developing many of our training systems, including our community-led conflict monitoring system, since 2003. This experience empowers us to build the skills and abilities of rural villagers better manage their own natural resources.
Just a few of the skills that Warriors for Wildlife learn on the job at African People & Wildlife Fund.
|GPS, Binocular, and Rangefinder Use||Wildlife Monitoring and Recording||Data Entry and Analysis||Conflict Alleviation Techniques||Teamwork and Leadership Tools|
Because our Warriors are born and raised on the Maasai Steppe, they understand the unique challenges of this area’s residents. They are also deeply connected to the social fabric where we work, and are our eyes and ears into the community in terms of reporting human-wildlife conflict situations. Anytime an incident occurs, our Warriors are trained to respond immediately, collecting accurate information about the conflict. Often, these young men and women are able to diffuse the situation, preventing their fellow Maasai from retaliating against the wild animal that may have caused the conflict.
By training and supporting local conflict monitoring teams and exposing them to up-to-date information on global strategies for the prevention of human-wildlife conflicts, APW ensures rural villagers have credible information when developing local strategies to prevent conflicts.
The information that the Warriors for Wildlife provide also contributes to our wildlife monitoring studies. Through this work, we establish information about population trends and density estimates for lions, cheetahs, leopards, and many other species across the Maasai Steppe.
Wildlife monitoring allows us to measure the success of our conservation programs, as well as keep a pulse on the overall health of the ecosystem. We utilize three main methods in our monitoring work:
(1) Camera traps: We use these to understand where big cats are present, and to understand the behavior of individual animals.
(2) Wildlife counts: Our Warriors for Wildlife help us count the number of animals seen while driving down specific roads. We can then use a mathematical formula to calculate how many individuals of each species live across our entire study area. This is particularly effective for herbivore populations when done repetitively over time.
(3) Carnivore spoor tracking: Our specially-skilled team of Hadzabe hunter-gatherer lion trackers help count and identify the number of lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyena that cross a given road at night. From these numbers, we understand how many lions there are in our entire study area and evaluate changes in the population over time.
All of this information is kept in a database at the Noloholo Environment Center. We use it to evaluate how our conflict prevention strategies are impacting local lion, leopard and cheetah population trends, as well as population trends for the many other species on the Maasai Steppe.