Lion Conservation in Action
Living Walls ~ Protecting Livestock, Saving Lions
APW’s innovative Living Walls are an excellent example of what can happen when local communities are empowered to find their own solutions to their own problems. By working with Maasai community members, we combined local, traditional knowledge with modern technology to develop a successful product that is in high demand. A Living Wall is a structure which combines traditionally planted indigenous Commiphora tree species, interlinked with chain link fencing, to reinforce corral walls in order to prevent lions and other large carnivores from penetrating the livestock corral and panicking livestock (Commiphora grows along and around the chain link fencing, adding density and height). The use of live trees as fence posts contributes to habitat protection by reducing the need to repetitively cut, non-regenerating acacia thorn trees for corral or “boma” maintenance, a time-consuming activity that results in widespread clearing of native species. Meanwhile, live trees enhance the sustainability of the enclosures in comparison to costly, wooden poles which eventually rot or termites destroy. As the trees grow, they add height to the fence, preventing carnivores from jumping into the corrals.
APW’s 220 Living Walls are currently protecting approxinately 50,000 livestock nightly, making a major contribution to lion conservation and local communities. Committed to sharing our model, groups in other parts of Tanzania as well as Kenya and Mozambique are now adapting and utilizing this technology.
In order to determine the impact of our Living Walls, APW is working with local people to monitor lions and attacks on livestock. This project established the first population estimate for lions in the Maasai Steppe and has discovered important details regarding the behavior of lions outside of national parks. Currently, we are focusing our monitoring efforts on lion prides ranging extensively within village lands, paying particular attention to incidences of lion-livestock conflict. This information helps APW to evaluate how our conflict prevention strategies are impacting local lion population trends. Committed to the incorporation of traditional knowledge in all aspects of our work, APW collaborates with highly skilled Hadzabe lion trackers and local community members to keep tabs on the big cats.
Lion Conservation Education
Creating local awareness of the value of lions and involving schoolchildren in lion conservation activities is critical for developing long-term interest in conservation. Since 2006, APW reaches hundreds of students each year with its interactive, tailor-made workbook “Your Environment with Lions” or “Mazingira Yako na Simba” about the Maasai people, their environment and lions. In addition, APW provides annual study tours to Tarangire National Park where students view lions in the wild in a non-confrontational setting, field trips to visit Living Walls and environmental summer camps with a strong focus on living with large carnivores.