Communities in Niassa have always lived with large carnivores and have developed many ways to reduce conflict. Nonetheless, lions and other carnivores do attack people and livestock on occasion. We are fortunate as no cattle are found here, just goats and smaller livestock like chickens, rabbits and ducks, and attacks on people are rare.
We collect detailed information on all human wildlife conflict events through our Community Wildlife Guardians program and through specific surveys. By analyzing this information and asking the question “what were you doing before you were attacked?”, we have been able to identify behaviours that make people and livestock vulnerable.
Walking drunk in the bush, walking to the toilet at night, protecting fields from bushpigs alone at night, sleeping on the ground in shelters with no walls or a door are all activities that can increase a person’s chances of being attacked by a lion or hyaena. Elders in villages know that the safest way to sleep in the fields in the wet season is on shelters on stilts, the traditional “Sanja”. Livestock can be protected almost 100% by building strong log goat corrals with a good roof, secure door and small gaps between poles. Even better is a corral with a double wall.
We work with communities to reduce attacks by lions both through using traditional methods and new technology like flashing lights. Together we can find ways to coexist.
A safe behaviours poster was developed to promote awareness of behaviours that make people vulnerable and highlights what actions people can take to reduce attacks by lions themselves. We emphasize common sense practices like sleeping inside to avoid carnivore attacks. Local shelter designs can vary widely and don’t all offer equal protection from a large carnivore. We have identified the traditional shelters that work the best. Shelters on stilts are the most effective (“Sanja”), while shelters on the ground must have a door, walls, and a roof in order to offer reasonable security. Open thatch or bamboo and grass shelters that only provide protection from the rain or sun are not secure.
Our “Protect Yourself” poster, illustrated by Conor Rawson, has been endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and is regularly distributed to all schools and clinics in NNR and to people living in the protected areas throughout Mozambique. Conor’s quirky, amusing illustrations get attention and spread the message to people without the need for further explanation, and do not require high levels of literacy to understand.
We also have a Human-Lion Conflict Toolkit which is the collaborative result of a workshop with lion conservationists across Africa and is available in English, French and Portuguese and can be freely downloaded and used. This Toolkit is meant to be a dynamic, practical document and is updated each year with new information. If you have something to add, please contact us.
For villagers, goats not only represent a source of protein but they are also a symbol of wealth and a savings account. The loss of one goat to a leopard has a significant effect on a household’s economy. But since goat husbandry is a fairly recent development in Niassa, many villagers don’t yet have strategies for keeping them safe from carnivores. The majority of people build goat corrals to keep goats in, not to keep predators out. We are spreading the word that better-designed goat corrals are a very effective way to protect goats from predation by lions, leopards and spotted hyaenas. Goat corrals can be improved by building a double wall to prevent leopards coming into direct contact with the goats, and securing the door and roof.