This week, we interviewed several members of a Maasai community in the Selela village regarding carnivore-livestock conflicts. They were kind to us and let us in their bomas to answer the questionnaire. I noticed that women were uncomfortable talking to us when a man was present. However, I accepted that gender roles in indigenous tribes in Africa are very different from indigenous tribes in America.
The community is facing troubles mostly with hyenas and jackals attacking their goats and cows. Nonetheless, they fear for the children and the elders as well when dawn comes. We used this data to undestand indigenous perception about carnivores and what is stopping mitigation practices in rural communities. It was clear that villagers do not see a economical benefit from carnivores and the cost of carnivore-proof bomas is too high for them.
On the other hand, we built fenced bomas to mitigate carnivore-livestock conflicts of families need near the Tarangire National Park. It was great to have hand-on experience with mitigation approaches of lions and hyenas while reinforcing conservation of carnivores.
Also, I learned how to make Maasai baskets from one of the widows that we helped. She was very patient and sympathetic while I learned. At the end, I felt at peace to see the reaction of the families we helped. I hope to take this experience home and help to solve some carnivore-livestock conflict with cougars, jaguars and wolves.
On the other hand, we learned about lion ecology and threats to their population. We visited the Lion Conservation Science Project building in Tarangire National Park and learned about the lion project by Dr. Bernard Kissui and his ongoing study on lion populations. He taught us about lion identification, radio telemetry and efforts to mitigate livestock-lion conflicts with pastoralist and villages adjacent to national parks.
We also tracked some collared lions in Manyara Ranch, but we could not see them because of the thick vegetation. Instead, we had a ranger teaching us the art of wildlife tracking and identification based on scat. I spotted the poop of a bat-eared fox!
Villagers blaming carnivores for livestock losses are not considering that the main cause of fatalities come from diseases. The perception from indigenous people and uneducated villagers impacts negatively carnivore conservation.
We learned how some Maasai men kill or poison lions as retaliation when livestock is found dead. It made me feel angry at first because it impacts the pride structure, has negative connotations with the overall population and affects other wildlife. However, I understood that villagers live in extreme poverty and livestock is a valued commodity that represent the sustain of each family.
Our best approach should be to target the conflict itself, and not the people. Just like lions, people need to eat, be safe and sustain their families, but they don’t know better. It made me reflect how indigenous people in Africa are so different from America. Perhaps the values and principles of our American tribes could be brought here.