In last week’s post about a recent safari to Tanzania, we mentioned the “Living Walls” project, an effort to reduce conflicts between humans and big cats in the Maasai Steppe. Named after the Maasai ethnic group, the Maasai Steppe is an area in northeastern Tanzania that encompasses both Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and is home to diverse wildlife as well as a longstanding human population. (Here’s a map of the Maasai Steppe.)
Raising cattle and goats is a major livelihood among the Maasai. At night when the herds are not out grazing, their owners traditionally keep them in circular pens fenced in by dead acacia thorns. The thorns can deter predators, but they aren’t foolproof, because they degrade easily in the harsh sun. Each Maasai community in the Steppe experiences carnivore attacks on livestock in these traditional pens about 50 times a year, resulting in the deaths of 72-84 lions across the Steppe as herders seek to protect their livestock.
Living Walls are a better approach developed together by Maasai communities and the African Wildlife & People Fund. Living Walls are based on the traditional acacia pen, but use fast-growing native trees and chainlink as reinforcement. This makes it very difficult for a predator to jump over or break through the pen.
Living Walls dramatically decrease predator attacks on livestock, and thus also virtually eliminate killing of predators by humans. From 2003 to 2013, Living Walls had a 99.9% success rate at deterring nighttime predator attacks, and herders with Living Walls didn’t kill any predators.
Because the fences rely largely on abundant natural resources, they are a practical, cost-effective solution to what up until now seemed like an intractable problem on the Maasai Steppe.
Would you like to learn more? Check out the links below:
- Lion Conservation in Action – African People & Wildlife Fund
- Evidence-based conservation: predator-proof bomas protect livestock and lions – Biodiversity and Conservation
- In Tanzania, ‘Living Walls’ Take Root to Protect Threatened Lions – Discover
- “Living Walls” Stop Lions From Attacking Livestock in Tanzania – National Geographic
- ‘Living Walls’ Prove Effective at Saving African Lions – National Geographic
- The Masai Steppe Big Cats Conservation Initiative – National Geographic