The Tonga tribes in this area were forcibly displaced in the filling of the world’s largest man-made lake between 1958 – 1963
Wildlife populations were also displaced during the filling of Lake Kariba and made to adapt to live in harsher conditions, on higher slopes and less fertile soils with less vegetation
The Mola Community is also extremely remote, with road infrastructure not well developed and difficult to maintain
The results of this displacement and challenging access mean unusually high levels of human-wildlife conflict, competing for limited natural resources
The African Bush Camps Foundation, beginning to build relationships and understand the unique challenges of the area, are partnering with the community to facilitate wildlife coexistence through 3 key techniques; reducing wildlife predation, improve perceptions of lions and other wildlife within households in conflict hotspots through wildlife incentive benefits & gathering and utilising baseline biodiversity data
The Mola Community is located in a remote region in Northern Zimbabwe, near Bumi Hills Safari Lodge on the shores of Lake Kariba. This area of the country was drastically changed during the filling on the world’s largest man-made lake between 1958 -1963, which resulted in the displacement of large populations of wildlife, as well as the Tonga tribes living here. This forced displacement to harsher and less fertile lands, along with minimal access to infrastructure, has meant unusually high competition for natural resources between humans and wildlife. Human-wildlife conflict case numbers are high, and as a result animosity for impeding wildlife and poaching activity is commonplace.
With the opening of Bumi Hills Safari lodge under the African Bush Camps portfolio in 2017, the critically important process of understanding local challenges and perceptions began. This included understanding past and existing efforts for empowering the Mola Communities with international and local NGO’s, who have operated in the area since the filling of Lake Kariba. There have been varying degrees of success and failure in facilitating a harmonious existence between humans and wildlife.
Taking from these experiences, growing relationships and employing a local resident Community Projects Officer, the African Bush Camps Foundation has formed a “Wildlife Coexistence Program” for encouraging and empowering communities to improve their livelihoods, whilst developing greater trust and appreciation for the presence on wildlife in the area. Three key areas of focus have been identified within the program:
Reducing livestock predation by at least 80% by 2020:
This is aimed to be done by employing “Human-Wildlife Coexistence Officers” from local villages. These officers are trained to monitor lion movements, assess conflict incidents, monitor kraal / mobile boma maintenance and gather biodiversity baseline data. These officers are trained an supported by the African Bush Camps Foundation through theoretical and practical training, including field trips into the nearby Matusadona National Park. They will also be supported via resource and equipment provision, including Camera traps deployed in wildlife areas in the vicinity of Mola and Chalala baseline monitoring. Human-Wildlife Coexisting Officers will also conduct continual assessments of homesteads in high-conflict areas to determine the number/type of livestock at each homestead and the feasibility of traditional pole & thatch kraal vs the mobile cattle boma model that has successfully been implemented in the Hwange area of Zimbabwe, and elsewhere on the continent. Stray or unattended livestock that roams around the homesteads and centrally located water-points at night are a large component of the problem, drawing predators into the communities. Human-Wildlife Coexistence Officers will also be tasked with monitoring, tending to and herding stray livestock into protected mobile boma enclosures in the evenings, until their owners collect and contain them appropriately.
Improve the perception and tolerance of lions including other wild animals through households in conflict hotspots receiving direct wildlife benefits:
Through the setting up of camera traps in high-conflict zones within the communities, the monitoring and recording of livestock predation is made easier. Through this monitoring system, residents suffering livestock depredation can have their claims reviewed and verified. Once verified, they receive reimbursement through an incentive payment as part of a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme. This scheme is agreed with village heads and implemented with them. It allocates a value to each species, disseminates incentive payments and penalises for poaching, illegal logging and burning. Human-Wildlife Coexistence Officers also arrange and deliver talks regarding conservation, ecosystem health and benefits across the community to various groups. Locations identified for these talks are; Mola High School, Kalundu Primary School, Chalala Primary School, Padenga Crocodile Farm & Bulembi SafarisAlso to assist the improvement of wildlife perception and tolerance, the formation of Conservation Clubs in Schools is undertaken, a concept that has been trialled and proven impactful within other communities we have partnered with. Video filming in the area, to promote and stimulate conservation ethos and concepts will be commissioned and facilitated. Game counting activities, which can often result in positive social experiences like the various ones run in national parks around Zimbabwe by Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ), are facilitated for contributing to positive experiences interacting with wildlife in the region. Water and solar-powered electricity systems are also sourced and funded through the programme; aimed to both develop environmentally conscious infrastructure as well as foster mindful approaches to development within the area.
Gather and utilise baseline biodiversity data:
The monitoring and analysing of predator activity in the area, through camera traps dispersed at strategic locations, will greatly inform and empower community members. Human-Wildlife Coexisting Officers will tend to deployed cameras monthly, download data and review with village heads at monthly meetings. They will be trained in data collection through Cybertracker via Android phones for fieldwork, in conjunction with Bumi Hills Anti-poaching Unit, already utilising this technology in their activities. Officers will also sample spoor transects in concerned areas. Camera trap & spoor data is compiled & analysed, with a primary focus on all felid species, mega & meso-carnivore presence and abundance as baseline indicators.
- Reduce livestock predation by at least 80% by 2020
- Improve the perception and tolerance of lions including other wild animals through households in conflict hotspots receiving direct wildlife benefits
- Gather baseline biodiversity data to be used in evaluating the Wildlife Coexistence Program success on an annual basis