Because livestock owners who graze their herds near Waza National Park repeatedly report lions attacking their flocks, scientists from Wageningen University and Leiden University conducted a study to analyze why the losses keep taking place and why herdsman still insist on grazing their herds near the park.
Waza National Park became a National Park in 1968 and also became designated as a biosphere reserve in 1979 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESC). Livestock owners who live around the Waza National Park area report lion attacks on their herds that cost them 1,000 US dollars per family each year.
A team of researchers from the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University and the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University decided to investigate the factors that keep contributing to the lions preying on the herds and also see why the herdsman insist on remaining so close to the national park where the lions hunt.
The scientists learned that even if the herdsman grazed their herds farther away from the park, it wouldn’t ultimately prevent lions from attacking. The scientists learned that the lions enjoy wandering far away from the park to hunt during the wet season when they aren’t restricted to one area for water supply. Plus during the wet season, the lions feel comfortable hunting away from the park because rich vegetation is abundant and gives them numerous hiding places where enabling them to easily stock prey. The lions will even follow nomadic herds and prey on the livestock in the villages that they pass on their journeys.
Thus, moving away from the park does not necessarily provide more protection. The herdsman argue that because the national park offers richer pastures and more water supplies, despite the fact that the lions frequently hunt their livestock, it is much more profitable to continue to graze near the lions primary hunting grounds.
The researchers learned that what distresses the herdsmen most is that the lions will kill prey just for sport and not to eat. One day some distressed herdsmen reported to the researchers that lions had attacked just outside the village. The herdsmen brought the researchers to the pasture and showed them three dead sheep and a calf with obvious bite marks on their necks. The herdsmen explained that they had tried to chase the lions away once they saw that they were attacking; it was already too late to save the three sheep and calf. The lions were undaunted by the herdsman and ran off with another sheep. The herdsmen stated, “That’s how they do it, they just kill. They’ve taken one sheep with them, but the calf and the other three sheep were killed for nothing.” The meat is also wasted for the herdsman because they are Muslim and cannot eat meat unless the animal is killed by a Muslim.
At any rate, the researchers learned that trying to chase away the lions does not prevent killings because the herds become scared and scatter, making it easier for the lions to get their prey.
The researchers were able to suggest that the herdsmen start containing their herds in bomas, which are protective thorn enclosures. The enclosures might help to keep the lions away from the livestock. Also, the researchers suggested that they increase the number of herdsmen to watch over the livestock. The Muslims in Cameroon cannot use dogs to guard their herds because in accordance with the profit Muhammad they believe that dogs are unclean and do not keep them as pets.
Davina Quarterman, “Living with lions,” Wageningen University and Leiden University.