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Fences make predators more tolerable to Kenya farmers

In this second post from the field, National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee Anne Kent Taylor reports on how her work to provide chainlink fencing to livestock farmers in rural Kenya is successfully keeping lions and other large predators at bay.

Taylor is using her Big Cats Initiative grant to mitigate the conflict between predators and farmers. Her project has had 100 percent success in protecting livestock from predation. This is a critical prerequisite for reducing the poisoning and spearing of lions and other predators in the region. (Read an overview of Taylor’s project: Saving Africa’s last wild lions by fencing them out)

By Anne Kent Taylor

From the Field in Kenya’s Maasai Mara–On July 15, I set off from Nairobi for the Mara, arriving six hours later–a feat in itself as the road is absolutely appalling! The following day I set off with the Anne Kent Taylor Fund (AKTF) Mara team to inspect the chainlink fortified bomas [traditional livestock enclosures], which have already been installed. Happily, the results are still positive with no predation recorded in any protected boma. The livestock owners, once again, told me that they now feel free to sleep at night knowing their livestock is safe.

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As I was driving around the community areas I received several other reports of livestock losses and managed to visit one unprotected boma where the owner had lost 33 goats to predation the previous week. A honey badger dug under the shed and started injuring the animals; a hyena caught scent of the blood and added to the destruction and finally a leopard arrived continuing to kill the animals.

One animal survived–a pregnant sheep who, after the attack, is paralysed in her back legs. I could not see how this damage was caused as there was no visible external injury–perhaps she will recover but I fear her injuries may be too great. I will deliver wire to this boma as soon as possible. This is proof positive as to how effective the chainlink is in protecting the livestock from predation.

There was also a report of lion predation in a very remote area which I was unable to visit on this trip–three cows were killed. There has been no indication that the Masai are planning to kill the lions in revenge. We have recorded this loss and will put this boma at the top of the list when we start Phase IV of the project.

Click on the image to find out more about the Big Cats Intiative. Photo compilation courtesy of Beverly and Dereck Joubert

We are currently busy completing Phase III, collecting the Masai share of the cost of the chainlink. As distances are so great, and there being little or no communication, this is proving to be quite a challenge–with many miles being covered!

There appears to be only one person who is insistent that he wants compensation for the animals he has lost. He is happy to have the wire which I provided, but feels that is not enough. We had a long meeting and I believe that my position is now understood. I can help with wire but not with compensation.

I had several visitors during this week–all of whom are interested in the various facets of “the project”: Asgar Pathan, from Care for the Wild Kenya, who supports the desnaring team; Anna Mette, Florian, Orilie, Arnaud from France, all of whom are interested in helping in some way with the project; Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect, and her husband, Peter Greste from BBC.

Boma owners very positive

Dr. Mortecai Ogada, who is on a carnivore conflict committee with Kenya Wildlife Service (as well as working with WCS), drove down for the night from Nairobi as he had heard about the success of our boma project. He wanted to see the efficacy for himself, which he found impressive. We visited as many bomas as possible so that he could talk with the local communities and hear what they had to say about it. They were, without exception, very positive. He is interested in introducing the concept to other areas of Kenya where lion poisonings are taking place.

Big Cats Initiative Grant

Grantee: Anne Kent Taylor

Project: Construction of predator proof livestock enclosures in prime big cat habitats in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region

Geographical Area Served: Africa\Kenya\Maasai Mara National Reserve

Field Work: 7/14/2010 – 7/11/2011

Project Description: Big cat populations in East Africa are crashing due to retaliatory killings by pastoralists. In the Maasai Mara, the problem threatens one of Africa’s most famous and important lion populations as pastoralists are increasingly intolerant of livestock predation. This project expands an existing successful project in the Mara that has effectively reduced human/lion conflict by preventing predation through securing livestock enclosures.

All blog posts by and about Anne Kent Taylor.

I introduced a family of friends/safari guests from the U.S., who have been long-term and generous supporters of the various aspects of the AKTF project. They loved being with the team and particularly enjoyed the school feeding programme and the time spent at the Oloomongi school where their grandchildren interacted with the Masai school children. These exchanges are always so pleasurable and bonds are formed between children from different worlds. How much they can learn from each other!

On Tuesday morning we found a beautiful male impala killed by a snare. The kill was fresh so we spent some time following the trail of the poachers, who had already butchered the impala and taken the meat with them. Regrettably they had enough of a lead on us that they escaped–this time!

The following day we managed to apprehend two youths, with five snares, who were involved in snaring, particularly for giant forest hog, which is tragic as they are so few in numbers–and their meat apparently gave the poachers a tummy ache anyway–so all in all a total waste. They provided us with a lot of information about the rest of their “gang” who were not present when these arrests were made.

Nov. 06 team members with snared leg of wildebeeste DSC00503.JPG

On an earlier visit to the bush, the team removing a snare from a wildebeest which lived to see another day.

Photo courtesy of Anne Kent Taylor

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Wire snares removed from the bush.

Photo courtesy of Anne Kent Taylor

The AKTF/CFTW team, along with the Mara Conservancy ranger, Daniel Tunai, will definitely follow up and will hopefully apprehend them in the next day or two.

Zebra killed by poison arrow

I just have received a report from the team that they found a dead zebra–killed by a Masai poisoned arrow. This is an unsettling turn of events as traditionally the Masai do not eat bushmeat–perhaps they are using zebra for target practice to test the strength of their poison, which is even more unsettling. It died in less than an hour.

On Tuesday I had a very long meeting with the local chief of the area, who expressed his support of my team and the project, particularly the bomas, and asked how he could support us further, which is very encouraging. He also was happy that, along with the chainlink, I was providing water tanks to many members of the community–these are wanted by everyone as water generally has to be hauled from far afield.

We visited the bio-gas digesters which are proving to be very successful and popular in the homesteads where they have been installed. Dominic Wanjihia, who installed them, came to add cookers to the expanding balloons! The vertical gardens were producing lots of vegetables and were proving to be a success.

I am leaving again for the Mara on the July 20, together with Stuart Pimm from NGBCI and Paula Kahumbu from Wildlife Direct. While I am not looking forward to the terrible road I am excited to share the boma project with them both. Paula’s work in trying to get Furadan banned in Kenya is invaluable and I know many interesting ideas will be exchanged between us. The safety of the lions, and other carnivores and birds, is paramount and together I hope we will be able to make a difference to their very survival.

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A fenced boma in the Masai Mara.

Photo courtesy of Anne Kent Taylor

Anne Kent Taylor’s July/August 2010 field report:

Part One: Saving Africa’s last wild lions by fencing them out (July 23, 2010)

Part Two: Fences make predators more tolerable to Kenya farmers (July 25, 2010)

Part Three: Good fences make good neighbors of Kenya’s lions and herders (August 16, 2010)

Anne Kent Taylor was born and raised in East Africa. Several months a year she resides in the Masai Mara. During four decades working in the safari business, she has seen growing pressures on wildlife. With the increase of human settlements around the Mara reserve, predator-livestock conflicts have grown in the Masai bomas (traditional enclosures). Through partnership with the Masai in community projects and fortifying existing bomas with simple methods of natural and wire fencing, the Anne K Taylor Fund has had a 100 percent success rate at preventing livestock predation and the resultant revenge killings of predators. Anne’s conservation team includes Masai members who help educate their community to become the protectors of their own wildlife heritage.

Learn more about the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative

How to apply for a Big Cats Initiative grant

Donate to the Big Cats Initiative

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