Before we even met we ran a matching challenge campaign to assist the man who protects lions in Botswana with lights, PODCAST.
“They’ve been here!”
I stare at the sand track in front of us. Really where?
Obviously it takes a trained and keen eye to pick out lion spoor from a moving vehicle!
Enjoy listening/reading about our day in the bush with the man who protects lions.
A Day in the Bush with the Man Who Protects Lions
Driving past the crop fields Marnus pulls to a halt next to a road kill. “Rare African Wild Cat,” he says picking her up by the tail and tossing her into the gully. “Scavengers get hit by cars feeding on carcasses.”
Back in October of 2014 Sam Kannenmeyer introduced me, via FB, to Marnus Roodbol. When he saw that we have a Land Rover he invited us to spend some time with him in the bush.
Marnus, the founder of Walking For Lions basically lives in the remote and rural areas of Botswana to keep lions alive. In some places where humans and wildlife overlap lions find livestock (cattle and goats) easier to hunt than wild prey. The farmers of course don’t like this and resort to shooting and poisoning entire prides.
This past October (2015) Russ and I find ourselves driving through the bush and along fence lines with Marnus in search of lion. He points out the areas where the lions roam, drawn in by the game who comes closer to the villages in search of water. Actually it’s less the farmers than the safari lodges with their waterholes to delight their guests, that attract the game.
Pandamatenga situated only about 60 kilometers (on the Botswana side) from where Cecil the lion was killed by the American dentist trophy hunter, is a natural home for a lot of wildlife, including many lions. In areas where humans and predators live there is inevitably going to be conflict and it’s a matter of finding ways for farmers and other inhabitants to live cooperatively with both predator and prey, so that all can thrive. One way has been with lights, lights placed in strategic places along the reinforced kraal/boma fences to keep cattle and goats safe.
Every morning before dawn, Marnus and his assistant Matthew (a wildlife conservation research student) drive around their area to look for lions, or evidences of lion activity. The afternoons they spend documenting their findings and meeting with farmers like Jeff and Ed (who I interviewed) to discuss why keeping lions alive is a good idea for everyone. During the night they at times get called out to help scare off lions terrorizing livestock, especially when a farmer is at his wits end and about to take drastic measures.
“Let’s go check on the elephant carcass.”
Marnus swings the Land Rover around and we go bouncing across the sand and brush. Not far from a recently dried up waterhole a young elephant fell prey to the lions. Marnus wants to be sure that the local wildlife authorities removed the tusks.
Yes, they did. Marnus points out the clean professional de-tusking job. Poachers tend to be ruthless and simply hack off the tusks.
We move on and find the sand track leading out towards the cattle posts.
“Lions were here last night.”
He points out while driving. Really? Guess it takes an expert and experienced tracker to not only spot the tracks but be able to identify the species.
We stop next to the spoor and get out to take a closer look. Marnus points out that they went through here after the elephant. He jumps up on top of the Land Rover with his binoculars. He scans the path, but the lions, nor elephants are anywhere to be seen.
Time to drive the fence line.
Marnus looks for holes. Places where warthog may have dug and others, like lion, may have used to breach the fence and enter the village area. Botswana has few fences and in most places wildlife and cattle roam free. However in Pandamatenga a huge horse shoe shaped fence, designed to protect the village surrounds the entire community. Unfortunately, all farming, both agricultural and livestock, is only permitted on the outside of this fence. Thus, the boma (kraals) at the cattle posts are essential to keep the cattle and goats protected.
Off to meet Jeff and Mandela.
Two farmers who have bought into the idea of using lights. We arrive at their cattle post. A large well fenced boma/kraal for the livestock and a couple of huts, tiny vegetable garden and a smaller kraal for the humans, dogs and odd chicken.
When I hear the word ‘farmer’ I envision large herds of cattle or goats. However, both Jeff and Mandela are the owners of but a few head of cattle that represent their manhood as much, if not more, than a means to earn a livelihood.
[Watch for Human Predator Conflict: The Farmers’ Perspective my interviews with Ed, and Jeff and Mandela]
Russ and I return to our camp at day’s end with a great respect and a heightened understanding of the complex problem addressing human predator conflict really is. You’re dealing with culture, poverty, myths, ignorance, politics and a host of contradictory issues that add layer upon layer of problems to solve.
My hat off to Marnus, the man who protects lions so that you and I have a chance of seeing them in the wilds in the future.
Although the matching challenge is over we’re continuing to assist Marnus. So, help save another lion or even entire pride from being killed.
Sadly due to circumstances beyond his control Marnus has withdrawn for a season.