Human wildlife conflict is on the rise and the folks with the Tanzania Lion Illumination Project have found that lights save lions from being killed by farmers.
It was a rainy morning in Karatu, Tanzania.
Philipo and I were messaging back and forth to nail down a time and place to meet. Philipo Ormorijei, a Maasai warrior from the area works with Patti Vaughn and the Tanzania Lion Illumination Project. Over the past couple of years they’ve been placing lights around cattle kraals (bomas) to keep lions away.
Human populations are expanding and villages near game reserves are at risk for conflicts with lions and other predators. Lions don’t typically go after livestock. However, if their wild prey is less available or if they learn that livestock is easier to catch… well then there’s trouble.
Villagers and farmers naturally retaliate when a cow is taken by lions. Generally this is bad news for not only one lion, but an entire pride. Now farmers are partly to blame in many cases. Livestock is frequently left unprotected at night.
To resolve this ever growing human wildlife conflict a variety of solutions have been presented, including encouraging farmers to keep livestock in kraals at night. One of the most common solutions appears to be lights. Supposedly lions associate light with torches (flashlights) and humans. And they keep away. However, lions are no dummies and quickly notice if lights are static. Thus to create the appearance of constant movement flashing lights are used.
On this particular morning in February 2017 Philipo accompanied us to a village outside the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. We met with a handful of local farmers. Philipo demonstrated how the lights work on the boma. Small lights placed on a pole about one meter high are spaced about 3 meters apart around the boma. They are solar powered and come on automatically at dusk.
Although a rather simple concept, creating these lights and the accompanying equipment to be rugged enough is not. Philipo and Patti experimented for some time. Now it seems they’ve found a reproducible system.
Last we heard more and more requests were coming in for lights. More and more farmers and villages want to protect their livestock more effectively. This is great news for the lions.
Of course, as you can imagine putting these systems of lights together costs money… about $500 for one boma. So your help to save lions with lights is most welcome.
(Nikela sponsored lights for two boma’s in 2017.)