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Lion problem animal control considered by the United Nations

Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) produced an interesting document called “Human-wildlife conflict in Africa: Causes, consequences and management strategies” Written by a number of authors, and taking up over 120 pages, it is a document with much information but rather short on the promised management strategies.

FACTOIDS

Here are some snippets on problem animals taken from the document:

  • Over two million years ago, a child (not of our species) was killed by an eagle in South Africa. Perhaps the earliest recorded incident of human-wildlife conflict?
  • Livestock damage due to wolves in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain amounted to 2.5 million euros in 1997. The most costly wolves lived in France, where damage averaged per wolf came to 3792 euros in that year.
  • Damage to crops in France in 2007 due to wild boars and deer amounted to 22-23 million euros.
  • In the United States, automobile collisions with deer injure 29,000 people annually and cause over $1 billion in damage.
  • In Australia, wild rabbits grazing on grass in fields meant for sheep results in a loss of $115 million per year in terms of wool industry production losses. And another Australian jumping pest, the kangaroo, well, the Australian government authorized the culling of about 9 million kangaroos per year.

BACK TO AFRICA

Let’s get back to Africa. The report considers all manner of conflicts, from loss of human life to crop damage to predator/livestock issues and diseases. African buffalos carry foot and mouth disease as well as theileriosis, communicated by tsetse flies to cattle. Wild carnivores communicate rabies. Lions, hyenas, leopards and crocodiles eat livestock and threaten people.  Baboons destroy crops… but… elephants are the worst. The report quotes – “Elephants seem to crystallize the hatred of rural communities. Field reports from across Africa describe local antipathy to elephants beyond that expressed for any other wildlife. People living in central African forests “fear and detest”elephants. Farmers in Zimbabwe display “ingrained hostility” to elephants, which are the “focus of all local animosity toward wildlife”. Rural Ugandans complain bitterly about elephants, except where they have been eradicated. In fact, the report says that “in general, rural Africans have little sympathy for wildlife and see the animals purely in terms of their meat value.”

Lions fare little better in terms of public opinion polls – “In the minds of most rural communities in Africa, lions are considered a pest that should be eliminated. In a study conducted in and around Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, 37 percent of 156 respondents thought that the best way to deal with stray lions entering the village was to kill them; 35 percent said a fence should be erected around the protected area, and only 28 percent felt people should be taught how to avoid lions. In Cameroon, of 236 herders questioned from 10 different villages along the borders of Waza National Park, 50 percent had a negative perception of lions. In the Niger, 81.5 percent of 154 people questioned between 2000 and 2006 in 87 villages in the peripheral zone of the W transboundary Park had a negative attitude towards predators, and 14 percent confirmed that they would kill predators.”

Eradication of lions has long been happening: “ In Northern Kenya, the number of predators killed by farmers has been reported to be equal to the number of livestock killed by lions, hyenas and leopards. Kenyan pastoralists poisoned all the lions in Amboseli Reserve in 1990 and speared 27 out of 40 lions in Nairobi National Park in 2003. Pastoralists in Chad and in several districts of the United Republic of Tanzania also poison lions. In Namibia, an average of about 60 lions were killed each year outside Etosha National Park over a 20-year period, almost always by communal or commercial farmers.”

SO WHERE ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS?

By this time, I was skim reading the report to get to the meat – how was the United Nations going to propose conflict resolution between humans and lions? These guys are supposed to be good at conflict resolution!

But… there was nothing new really.

  • Increase vigilance they say.
  • Guard cattle.
  • Avoid areas where lions might be.
  • Educate people to take a different attitude.
  • Make use of guard dogs and guard donkeys (!) to protect the cattle herds from lions.
  • In areas where you might encounter lions, protect yourself by wearing bush-coloured clothes, don’t walk at night, make yourself seem bigger by wearing extra clothes or backpacks, check the direction of the wind, and take children off the ground.

That’s it? From the United Nations? A few more bits though…

“Consider voluntary relocation”. Now this is something. “It is estimated that over 120,000 people displaced by civil war are currently living in protected areas [wildlife areas] in Mozambique.” “Donors recently paid $16 million to relocate the 6,000 people living in Limpopo National Park in Mozambique”. Got news for you, they are still there, and where is the $16 million?

And finally the report mentions the benefits of lion trophy hunting (in fact calls for an end to the 2008 Botswana ban on hunting), and then considers various compensation programmes, insurance programmes, etc.

FAO REPORT DOES NOT MEASURE UP

If you have the time and the energy, read the original report. I had quite a few problems with it:

  • It proposes nothing new or innovative.
  •  The report includes many factual errors – rinderpest (a virus of cloven-hoofed animals) killed very many zebras (an equine)? Facts were not checked before publication.
  • The report contains many unreferenced innuendos - the Kenya Wildlife Department and the Kenya Veterinary Department were involved in poisoning hyenas? If true, then that should cause some embarrassment within the organizations.
  • The report advocates trophy hunting of lions as a “control measure” and as a means of mitigating conflict. If the FAO is to be considered an expert organization, such statements do not belong in an official report.
  • Overall, it is a disappointing report from an organization that has the capability of calling on many expert opinions and thereby capable of producing a much more carefully considered document.
  • Given the above, the report should either be withdrawn or sensibly amended in the near future.   

Posted by Pieter Kat at 00:00

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