Photo: Amy Dickman greets villagers

Photograph courtesy Amy Dickman

Human-Big Cat Conflict

Grantee: Amy Dickman, Ph.D.

About This Project

Conflict with humans is the most critical threat currently facing wild populations of big cats, and it is imperative to effectively mitigate this threat in areas where these species still have a chance of long-term persistence.

Tanzania is a globally important area for big cats, with its Ruaha landscape highlighted as a particularly high priority region, especially for lions. However, research has revealed intense and increasing human-big cat conflict in this area, which results in people snaring, poisoning, and shooting big cats.

Training and Education

Research has revealed that this conflict is partly driven by livestock depredation, which can be very damaging for poor households, but also by little knowledge about big cats, incorrect identification of the causes of livestock loss, and few benefits from big cat presence. This project, led by Big Cats Initiative grantee Amy Dickman, Ph.D., aims to lessen the intensity of this conflict and reduce big cat persecution, thereby reducing the threats both to local households and to big cats.

This will be done by training and employing local conflict monitors, who will educate other villagers about big cat ecology and accurate kill identification; test the efficiency of novel, low-cost livestock protection techniques; and train villagers in the best techniques to help reduce livestock depredation.

Fences or Bomas

Dickman encourages low cost solutions such as noise-makers that scare lions and cheetahs away. Another solution she encourages is the boma or fence. She is working with the community on initiating a fencing program with mesh and “living” fences.

Lion Guardians

The highly successful program “Lion Guardians” in which a warrior is given the task of monitoring and watching a lion, rather than killing it, has been highly successful in Kenya. Dickman hopes that working with her colleagues in Kenya she can extend the "Lion Guardians" program to Ruaha.

Conservation Picture Guides and Movies

Dickman provides Swahili guides about carnivore identification, ecology, kill identification and how to distinguish predation from scavenging. Extremely popular with the community though are the Swahili movies on living alongside carnivores, ecology, husbandry, value of tourism, that she disseminates.

Providing Big Cat Benefits

Another project that benefits the villagers is the Ruaha Carnivore project, or Kids 4 Cats. The school in Ruaha is partnered with a school in the UK, and funds are raised for school supplies.

The “Human-Big Cat Conflict in Tanzania“ project will provide significant local conservation-related education, training, and employment and will also reduce the negative impacts of big cats. This is expected to improve the cost-benefit ratio of big cat presence, which should in turn reduce conflict and improve the chances of successful big cat conservation in this critically important area.

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