Project Duration: May 2023-April 2025

Abstract

Current extinction rates of large mammals are unprecedented in human history, with the majority of carnivore populations declining rapidly as a result of conflict with humans, habitat loss and depletion of prey. This 2-year project addresses the issue of human-wildlife conflicts which is a major conservation challenge for developing regions of the world. Conflict with carnivores hinders biodiversity conservation and impacts impoverished rural communities. Livestock depredation is the major cause of human-carnivore conflicts (HCC) worldwide, particularly in rural Africa where livestock and large carnivores co-occur within anthropogenic landscapes and along the periphery of protected areas. Livestock depredation and subsequent economic losses can affect the livelihoods of rural communities, reduce societal tolerance, and provoke retaliatory killings, threatening human-carnivore coexistence, particularly for African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and other predators which occur within semi-arid shared landscapes of sub-Saharan Africa.

This project showcases methods for mitigating conflict with carnivores by engaging local communities through use of livestock guardian dogs and novel animal husbandry practices, non-lethal wildlife deterrents to reduce economic losses and improve tolerance towards predators. Our proposed project addresses significant and urgent conservation needs:  conservation of cheetahs and other apex predators within human-dominated landscapes of southern Africa, as well as empowerment of rural communities to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and improve their livelihoods. The overarching goal of our project is in accordance with two major aims: a) conservation of endangered species and their habitats, and b) Engagement of relevant communities/stakeholders through community-based education programs or support of sustainable community development projects directly connected to protecting species and habitats, including measurement of impact on attitudes and behaviours. This project will focus on a diverse group of predators which are valuable ecologically and economically (revenues from tourism) but also cause damage to rural livelihoods. The implementation of human-carnivore conflict mitigation measures will help alleviate rural poverty and reduce costs of cooccurrence with predators. The project will train local people within communal conservancies in implementation of effective mitigation measures thereby building capacity in livestock protection and management.

Our main objective is to develop a human-carnivore coexistence model for the communal conservancies of Namibia through integration of historic data on HCCs, spatial modelling of hotspots, and vitally the prioritization of areas for implementing proven non-lethal conflict mitigation measures within risky landscapes. At present there are 86 registered conservancies spread across the country. These communal lands support a diverse carnivore guild with the major species involved in conflict with humans being spotted hyaena, black-backed jackal, leopard, lion and cheetah. Specifically, we will prepare a spatial database of HCC for the communal conservancies, map conflict prone areas, and use appropriate mitigation tools to improve well-being of local communities within the hotspots. This will help us to estimate the spatial extent of HCC, document interrelationships between HCC and land use types and changes, and provide clear avenues for prioritizing conflict resolution and conservation efforts in this southern African carnivore stronghold. This project will help us to understand the socio-ecological factors contributing to livestock depredation and retaliatory killings of carnivores within shared landscapes of Namibia. Results of this work to be achieved during the project’s timeframe will be instrumental in several ways, and will include identifying and mitigating risks associated with complex multi-predator communities, direct implementation of mitigation measures, developing a proactive and long-term human-carnivore coexistence framework, and improving societal tolerance of local communities through actionable measures.

Because this project requires uptake of novel approaches to reduce human-carnivore conflict we have sought support and partnerships from a diverse range of stakeholders. Critically, we will engage with communal farmers within the high-risk HCC zones and implement non-lethal mitigation tools that the Cheetah Conservation Fund has demonstrated – with prior support from donor organisations – to be effective, specifically the use of Livestock Guardian Dogs, conservation outreach programs, carnivore help phone hotline, and use of non-lethal carnivore deterrents. The major target group of this project will be livestock farmers, livestock workers/herders, and communal conservancy members more generally. Our proposed project will provide economic benefits to the farming communities by reducing losses to predators and will facilitate coexistence of people and large carnivores within shared landscapes. We will engage with the stakeholders within the HCC hotspots through focus group discussions and participatory workshops in which participants will learn to implement effective measures for ensuring human-carnivore coexistence.

The communal conservancies of Namibia and the issues surrounding human-carnivore cooccurrence within multiple-use landscapes exemplify global conservation challenges that affect several endangered large carnivores which share space with humans; thus, insights gained from this conservation project will be a useful model for improving human-carnivore coexistence globally.

Justification

Namibia hosts a diversity of terrestrial carnivore species including the critically endangered African wild dog, the endangered cheetah and vulnerable leopard, lion, black-footed cat and spotted hyena. However, the majority of these carnivore populations occur outside protected areas such as within communal conservancies where they are viewed as threats to livelihoods. The primary species which are often involved in conflict with humans include spotted hyaena, black-backed jackal, leopard, lion and cheetah. The locally used conflict mitigation measures are not used extensively and often are not effective in reducing losses to predators. In addition to carnivores, the semi-arid and arid climate, prolonged droughts, change in land use patterns and anthropogenic impacts affect human-predator interactions within the shared landscapes of Namibia. To safeguard important source populations of large carnivores within Namibia and beyond, it is imperative to improve and ensure human-carnivore coexistence within these shared landscapes.

Through this project we will develop human-carnivore coexistence model for the communal conservancies in Namibia that can serve as a framework for other endangered carnivore populations within human-dominated landscapes. Our efforts will directly contribute to the enhancement of conservation strategies for conserving the globally largest population of free-ranging African cheetahs, and other endangered predators across Namibia. Results of this work will be instrumental in identifying and mitigating risks to the diverse carnivore community, improving tolerance of local communities through participatory approaches, and reducing livestock losses through community involvement and implementation of effective conflict mitigation measures. The major target group of this project will be livestock owners, and communal conservancy members. Our proposed project will provide economic benefits to the farming communities by reducing losses to predators and facilitate coexistence of people and large carnivores within shared landscapes. We will engage with diverse stakeholders through focus group discussions and participatory workshops to implement measures for ensuring human-carnivore coexistence.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund is a major non-governmental research and conservation organization headquartered in Namibia. The organization was established in 1990 and has been involved with the conservation of cheetahs, other predators and ecosystems across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The organization has been working closely with local communities across several landscapes in Namibia, government agencies, and scientists, and has been successful in reducing human-carnivore conflicts (HCC) through adoption of non-lethal techniques and capacity building measures for livestock farmers. In particular, the Livestock Guardian Dog program initiated by CCF uses Anatolian shepherd and mongrel (mixed-breed) dogs that have proven to be the most effective method to reduce livestock depredation on Namibian farmlands. CCF conservation activities, particularly the Livestock Guardian Dog and community outreach and education programs, and has successfully demonstrated conservation outcomes by developing pathways for human-carnivore coexistence and mitigation of HCC within shared landscapes.

For this project, we have assembled a team comprising of Namibian and international participants who are uniquely positioned to conduct this work and have extensive prior experience conducting projects on human-carnivore conflicts that have led to direct conservation outcomes. We have secured the necessary permits from the Namibian government to carry out this project, and the PIs and collaborators have met with all project partners and local community representatives to initiate project planning.

Project Summary

Most large carnivore populations have declined over the last century due to habitat loss, poaching for illegal wildlife trade, and human-wildlife conflicts. This trend is especially true for cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), one of Africa’s apex predators and wide-ranging large carnivore, with their habitat declining by over 90% in the last 100 years. Majority of the current distribution range of large carnivores occurs outside protected areas within multiple-used landscapes of Africa. This project will address the issue of human-carnivore conflicts for the diverse carnivore guild in southern Africa, and support the development of a human-carnivore coexistence model for the communal conservancies of Namibia.

Losses of apex predators occurring in sub-Saharan Africa are unsustainable, particularly with habitat loss and changes in land use and climate resulting from global climate change. Indeed, retaliatory killing is a major reason for declining large carnivore populations across Africa. Hence, there is an urgent need to address HCC within the multiple-used landscapes to establish a more sustainable long-term coexistence model. HCC remains the biggest threat to survival of large carnivores outside protected areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Based on current understanding the major drivers of HCC are i) loss of suitable habitats ii) increase in livestock production iii) rise in human population and iv) cultural beliefs of local communities. Thus, we hypothesize that change in land use patterns, increase in livestock production, human population and local tolerance for wildlife intensity HCC. Our primary question will be to understand how local communities and carnivores can be integrated into a shared landscape while minimizing negative interactions.

To this date no effort has been made to develop mechanistic models based on spatially explicit analysis of HCC scenarios for Namibia. Such an approach would provide a complex assessment of conflict-driving factors, predict HCCs and hotspots (with special focus on anthropogenic mortality of carnivores) and propose targeted and feasible conflict mitigation measures. A wealth of historical and recent information exists on human-carnivore interactions from various programs conducted by the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations (NACSO, Namibia). This extensive data provides us an opportunity for a holistic and integrated assessment that seeks to support the development of mechanistic models which will be beneficial in proactive conflict mitigation and prevention. A detailed and structured understanding of HCC, spatial risk modelling of hotspots, improved communication, and collaboration between stakeholders are required urgently, before a tipping point is reached wherein carnivore populations deteriorate and impacts on rural community livelihoods increase irreversibly. Vitally, the mapping outputs generated from this project will enable us to focus applied conservation activities within the project’s timeframe in the communities in most need.

Objectives of the project

The proposed work will be conducted in a multidisciplinary framework by integration of HCC data, landscape ecology, remote sensing, and human dimensions information. The overarching objectives of this project are:

  • Create a spatial database of HCC for the communal conservancies of Namibia
  • Improve our understanding of human-carnivore conflicts within shared landscapes of Namibia
  • Identify the major ecological and social drivers of HCC and develop a mechanistic model of HCC
  • Use the database created for communal conservancies to delineate the hotspots and trends of HCC in relation to changing land use patterns over time (on the basis of remote sensing data)
  • Based on the results of the mechanistic models, develop a human-carnivore coexistence model
  • Train communities and implement successful conflict mitigation measures within HCC hotspots (primarily through the introduction of Livestock Guardian Dogs, outreach, education of livestock husbandry, non-lethal predator deterrents, and HCC hotlines)

To examine the current and historic scenario of HCC we will review and spatially reference past and current records of livestock depredation and retaliatory killings of carnivores within communal conservancies of Namibia. We will compile existing information available from the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), and Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Tourism to establish a spatial database for HCC, and to map potential conflict risk hotspots for the conservancies.

Focus group discussions and community workshops will be conducted to understand perceptions towards carnivores, livestock husbandry practices, and measures used by local community members to deter predators. Our objectives align with the Revised National Policy on human wildlife conflict management for Namibia (2018-2027). This proposed work is applied in nature and integrates remote sensing and human dimensions in communal conservancies. The project findings will have relevance to global conservation strategies aimed at managing large carnivore populations within similar semi-natural ecosystems where predators co-occur with livestock and humans within multiple-use landscapes. The project will be based on collaborations with the Namibian government, local institutions and organizations working on conservation of carnivores and wellbeing of local communities within the study sites, who will work closely on this project to share resources and expertise. Collaborations have already been secured with NACSO, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Tourism, , University of Namibia, Namibia University of Science and Technology, communal conservancies, traditional authorities and individual farmers.

At the community level, we will involve different local stakeholders during field work and implementation of mitigation measures. The community members will be made aware of the importance of apex predators within multiple-use ecosystems and possible methods of coexistence with carnivores. Livestock farmers and farm workers/herders will be trained to use specific mitigation measures such as Livestock Guardian Dogs, non-lethal wildlife deterrents, and improved animal husbandry practices. We believe that this project will significantly bolster efforts to secure the diverse carnivore community, conserve dry semi-arid ecosystems, reduce economic losses to predator attacks, and help develop pathways for human-carnivore coexistence within selected landscapes of Namibia. In addition to benefitting communities directly, we will train 2 local Namibian Hons students, whom we will recruit to undertake their own thesis work through this project.

The funding requested through this proposal will be used for hiring an expert in socio-ecological systems and HCC; organization of conservation outreach workshops; breeding and placement of Livestock Guardian Dogs in CCF’s dedicated program; procurement of cost-effective wildlife deterrents; and distribution of awareness material on HCC for the local communities; and running the carnivore help phone hotline. Other project support and supporting services will be provided by the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Output

  1. Spatial database of HCC for communal conservancies in Namibia
  2. Investigate trends in HCC in relation to changing land use patterns over time
  3. Estimate the current and historic spatial extent of HCC (livestock predation, retaliatory killings) using analyses of existing data
  4. Identify the major sociological correlates of HCC and assess the extent of conflict
  5. Risk mapping that highlights likelihood of livestock depredation and carnivore persecution hotspots;
  6. Implementation of mitigation measures within HCC hotspots in an integrated model of landscape management that combines community development, livestock production, and wildlife conservation, thereby enabling human-carnivore coexistence
             Period  

Work plan Description

From To
May

2023

Aug 2023 Collection and compilation of information from digital archives and other distant sources on HCC for the communal conservancies
Sep 2023 Oct 2023 Collection and compilation of remotely sensed data from online data source
Nov 2023 April 2024 Analysis and modelling of HCC dataset

Manuscript writing: Factors determining hotspots of HCC within communal conservancies of

Namibia

May 2024 Dec 2024 Implementation of conflict mitigation measures within HCC hotspots through community involvement and multistakeholder collaboration
May 2024 Dec 2024 Organization of conservation outreach programs and participatory workshops for local community members

 

Jan 2025 Apr 2025 Report writing & Manuscript 2: (Title to be decided later)

 

Activities

Year 1:

  • Activity 1: Visit to NACSO and MEFT offices and compilation of HCC data
  • Activity 2: Recruitment of Namibian students from NUST/UNAM
  • Activity 3: Collate, compile remotely sensed information & open-source data
  • Activity 4: Analysis of HCC data and identification of risk zones within communal conservancies
  • Activity 5: Prepare Annual Report and publication on HCC

Year 2:

  • Activity 1: Identify areas and communities within conservancies where human-carnivore conflict measures will be implemented
  • Activity 2: Provide training to livestock farmers and workers on HCC mitigation measures such as Livestock Guardian dogs, novel animal husbandry practices, carnivore deterrents, phone hotline number etc.
  • Activity 3: Conduct conservation outreach workshops for selected conservancies
  • Activity 4:Prepare Final Report and publication on HCC

Measurable outputs

  1. Publication on HCC within communal conservancies of Namibia
  2. The benefits of community-based human-carnivore conflict mitigation measures to be implemented across a large scale within anthropogenic landscapes of sub-Saharan Africa
  3. Decrease in livestock depredation and retaliatory killings of carnivores (Longer term impact)
  4. Improved livestock husbandry practices and reduction in costs of coexistence with carnivores

Budget

S.No. Budget Item Item(s) Calculation $US values Total in $US Details
1 HCC mitigation tools Livestock guardian dogs (1,000 $/dog *20) = 20,000 20,000.00 Implementation of mitigation measures within HCC hotspots
  Fox lights (50 $/unit * 100) = 5000 5000.00 Purchase of fox lights
  Farmer training (100 $/training program * 10) = 1000 1000.00 Training for improved livestock husbandry measures, printed material across conservancies
  Carnivore help phone hotline number 1000 $ 1000.00 Setting up and maintenance of phone hotline number
2 Vehicle Maintenance Service & repairs (1000 $/year * 2) = 2000 2,000.00 Maintenance of project vehicle
3 Automobile Fuel (500 $/month * 10 month) = 5000 5000.00 Travel to communal conservancies
4 Visit to NACSO Windhoek Travel & housing 1 trip = 3 days, (2 trips) 400 $/trip * 2 = 800 8,00.00 Visit to NACSO office regarding HCC data
5 Fellowship 1 Conservation Scientist (2500 $/month * 12) = 30,000 30,000.00 Logistics, planning, field surveys, data collection and compilation, analysis, coordination, report writing
6 Food stipend 3 staff members (1000 $/person * 3 * 1 year) = 3,000 3,000.00 Buying food supplies while conducting field work & trips for the project
7 Conservation outreach workshops 8 (200 $/workshop * 8) = 1,600 1,600.00 Community workshops targeting livestock owners, herd boys, game farmers, conservancy members
8 Stipend Hiring 2 Local Namibian students (300 $ * 24 months * 2) = 14400 14,400.00 Students will be involved in conducting workshops, implementing mitigation measures
9 Stipend Game Guards 150 $/person/month * 8 months * 10 = 12,000 12,000.00 Salary for game guards within communal conservancies while implementing conflict mitigation measures
10 Miscellaneous expenses Medical Aid, Emergency, Printing etc (1500 $/year * 2) = 3,000 3,000.00 Unforeseen expenses
Total ($US) 98,800.00 Ninety-eight thousand and eight hundred dollars only