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Pride in Our Prides: Can A Story Save the African Lion? Stein, Andrew, Florian J Weise, and Eric LeFlore.. CLAWS Conservancy, 1 May 2016. Experiment. doi: 10.18258/7036
Since our project is multidisciplinary, we are using a variety of methods to determine our effectiveness in fostering coexistence between the lions and the community. Initially, we conducted questionnaires at each household to determine how much people within the community knew about lions and their level of tolerance for lions. We have identified all of the lions within the conflict area and members of the community have our study animals local names. As we collect data on these lions, we describe the pride dynamics at community meetings and homestead visits. We have now identified a new lion to our area, so we will dart and fit her with a GPS collar to monitor their movements and describe their activities to the communities.
When darting, we work with a registered veterinarian to track the lions early in the morning. Usually the cats walk along the roads and the sandy substrate is perfect for tracking. We will employ a local bushman tracker to follow the tracks until we find the pride. Once in sight, we will identify the animal we want to collar, slowly approach until within 20 yards before darting. As our target animal drifts asleep, we will gently encourage the pridemates to give us space before we exit the vehicle to collect biological samples and measurements then fit the collar. Our vet will administer an antidote and the lion will rejoin her pride within an hour of darting. Within the first week, we will ask the nearest village to give this lion a local name to foster interest.
Our satellite collar will collect 6 locations a day and give us real-time updates when the lions cross a 'geofence'. This geofence is a pre-programmed line of coordinates that demarcates the village boundary. Once crossed, our project staff receives a warning message on our cell phones complete with the lion's identification and exact GPS coordinates so that we can warn villagers of the approach. First we will text the village chief and other leaders within the community to begin a series of text messages to warn all members of the village. Each villager can then ensure that their livestock are secured in an enclosure and build a small fire to deter lions from coming too close.
We will continue our outreach by telling villagers stories of our new lion- who they associate with and where they move. After 2 years, we will conduct a second questionnaire to assess changes in attitude and understanding of villagers towards lions. We will also evaluate the trends in livestock killing by lions and lion mortality from humans. Our project has shown remarkable progress in the first year and hope that this progress continues as we collar the newest lion to the area!
We have several challenges for this project. First, generating trust between our project staff and the villagers. We are addressing this by engaging with villagers early on and sharing our results. They receive early-warnings when lions are nearby and so far they appreciate our collaboration. Second, finding our target lion. Lions in conflict areas tend to be more secretive than those in the national parks. Often, they are only alive because of their reclusive behavior. Finding our target individual and getting into a position where we can dart and collar them may prove to be very difficult. We will address this by tracking them in the morning and approaching slowly during the mid day hours when they are resting. Patience is necessary since we do not want to stress them or the rest of the pride. If they lion remains in an area that is challenging, we will play distress calls of prey animals on loud speakers to trigger an approach. Typically, lions are curious enough to approach to within darting distance when hearing these calls. Of course after darting the challenge is watching all the other lions as we exit the vehicle to fit the collar and take measurements. We keep one staff on watch to warn us if the curious the pride mates approach, that way we can return to the vehicle quickly to avoid harm.
Our project analysis will be multidisciplinary, but center around our hypothesis that people become more tolerant when they know more about local lion populations. First, we will monitor trends in livestock losses to lions and lions killed by villagers. Second, we will compare the people's attitudes and tolerance through our follow up questionnaire. In our post-treatment questionnaire, we will ask many of the same questions to determine whether there is a clear difference in attitude before and after our outreach efforts. We will also ask additional questions for qualitative analysis related to these changes.
This project has not yet shared any protocols.