Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report Spring-Summer 2013

Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report
Spring-Summer 2013
Dear friends of the Ruaha Carnivore Project,
The second half of 2012 and first part of 2013 have exceeded even our own
expectations. The Lion Guardians programme got off to a very quick and so far
successful start, with three staff members and five Barabaig Lion Guardians hired.
We had the entire dry season, when the number of depredations is low, to get
them used to their jobs and the Barabaig community used to the idea of not killing
lions. They then proved their worth in this recent rainy season, as they helped stop
numerous lion hunts, and helped reduce lion killing in the core study area.
We had hoped to provide two full secondary school scholarships to pastoralist
children. Instead, we raised enough money to send six children to secondary school,
which was really great.
Thanks to grants from the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative and other
supporters, we have now predator-proofed over 50 livestock enclosures, which is
great. No livestock have been killed in the improved enclosures, which has reduced
the local economic costs of carnivore presence and the need for retaliatory killing.
Our camp has grown tremendously: we have added two bandas (thatch-roofed
platforms to protect our tents from the elements and marauding wildlife), are
slowly replacing our nylon tents with second-hand canvas ones (that hopefully will
be less inviting to snakes and mice), have expanded our solar power array, and—
most exciting of all—have run a water pipe from Kitisi to camp! This was
surprisingly inexpensive and saves many hours of manpower and wear and tear on
our vehicles.
You can read more about what we are doing below and also find out more on our
website or on Facebook. None of our work would
be possible without all of our supporters, so huge thanks from the entire team for
everything you are doing. We hope that you enjoy the report!
Best wishes, the RCP team
Dr. Amy Dickman, director; Dr. Maurus Msuha, scientific collaborator; Monty
Kalyahe, senior research assistant; Ayubu Msago, community liaison; Msafiri
Mgumba, senior research assistant; Justin Chumbulila, research assistant;
Stephano Asecheka, Lion Guardians coordinator; and George Sedoyeka, Lion
Guardians coordinator.
Cover photo by Mdonya Old River Lodge’s game driver, Kahimba.
Page 1
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape, which includes the Ruaha National Park, Wildlife Management
Areas, Game Reserves and neighbouring village lands, is one of the most important places in
the world for large carnivores: this area holds over 10% of the world’s remaining lions, one
of only four cheetah populations in East Africa numbering 200 individuals or more, the third
largest population of endangered African wild dogs in the world, and globally important
populations of leopards and spotted hyaenas. However, despite its significance, very little
scientific research has been conducted on Ruaha’s carnivores, hindering the development of
effective conservation plans. Furthermore, there is intense human-carnivore conflict in the
local area, which is a major conservation issue. This conflict – in which carnivores pose a
threat to people or their stock, and people respond by killing carnivores – causes severe
problems for both villagers and carnivores, so reducing it is a top priority for the project.
The Ruaha Carnivore Project, which was established in 2009, is part of the Wildlife
Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) within Oxford University’s Zoology Department. It
works in partnership with Tanzanian organisations such as the Tanzanian Wildlife Research
Institute (TAWIRI) and National Parks authorities to achieve the following:
(i) Provide baseline information on large carnivore distribution, relative abundance and
ecology across the Ruaha landscape, including both protected and unprotected land; and
(ii) Reduce the costs and improve the benefits associated with living alongside carnivores for
local people, thereby reducing human-carnivore conflict in this critically important area.
Page 2
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Five Barabaig Warriors become the first Ruaha Lion Guardians
Thanks to a grant from Panthera, and through close partnership with the Lion Guardians
organisation in Kenya, five young Barabaig warriors have been hired as RCP’s first Lion
Guardians. As Lion Guardians, the warriors help protect lions in human-dominated areas by
collecting data on lions, warning people of lions’ presence in grazing areas, helping villagers
repair livestock enclosures, locating lost livestock (and children) and working with other
warriors in the community to prevent lion hunts.
The Barabaig are responsible for the majority of the Ruaha area’s lion killings, both in
retaliation for livestock depredation and as part of their coming-of-age rituals. They are an
intensely secretive group who typically do not mix with outsiders, and earning their trust
took RCP staff almost two years. But since agreeing to become part of the Lion Guardians
programme, which originated in Kenya with the Maasai, there has been a striking decline in
lion killings in the core study area. This is particularly impressive as convincing a Barabaig
warrior to renounce lion killing is no small feat — some of the Barabaig Lion Guardians
reported participating in more than 90 lion hunts before becoming Guardians!
Our Lion Guardians team (from left to right): Gwagi Gaga, Daremu Philipo, Stephano
Asecheka (ccordinator), Ema Kwashema, Mandela Dudmeka and Daudi Kinyoka
The Barabaig’s commitment was sorely tested in February, when almost nightly attacks on
Barabaig bomas caused more than a dozen livestock deaths. The Lion Guardians and RCP
staff worked day and night — even staying at vulnerable bomas overnight — to help prevent
attacks and retaliatory lion hunts. The Lion Guardians intercepted one hunt and convinced
the warriors to turn back, and eventually the attacks stopped without any lions being killed.
We look forward to reporting on more successes as the programme grows.
Page 3
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
First Simba Scholars start school!
One of the benefits that local villagers said they would most appreciate from the presence
of carnivores was better access to education. To address this, in 2012 RCP raised funds,
through the AZA Conservation Endowment Fund and private donors, to provide six ‘Simba
Scholarships’. These are competitive scholarships available for children from local pastoralist
families, and the six Scholars began attending Idodi Secondary School in February 2013. It is
hard for villagers to pay for their children to attend secondary school, so this has been very
important in terms of a tangible benefit to local people, as it will have long-term value for
the students and their families. To learn more about these first Simba Scholars, visit our
website at Please contact RCP if you are interested in
learning more about the Scholarships or funding a Simba Scholar next year.
Ayubu Msago (RCP’s community liaison) with the six Simba Scholars: from left to right, Grace
Nchachi, Herieth Charles, John Kunguti, Kwangu Charles, Isaya Koyesa, & Zawadiana Daniel
Staff Updates
Msafiri Mgumba has returned to camp after completing his Postgraduate Diploma in
International Wildlife Conservation Practice at Oxford University. We are thrilled to have
him back with all his new skills, and have promoted him to Senior Research Assistant.
Research Assistant Meshack Saigulu received a scholarship to undertake his Masters degree
at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) – we are sad
not to have him at camp but will be working with him again both during and after his
degree. Stephano Asecheka and George Sedoyeka came on board to manage the Lion
Guardians programme, and Justin Chambulila has been hired as a research assistant for RCP.
Page 4
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
New options for donating
People interested in giving to the Ruaha Carnivore Project - in particular those in the United
States - have a great new option for online donations. The Houston Zoo is hosting a
donation page for lion conservation organizations, and RCP is one of the featured
organizations. To check out our gorgeous and easy-to-use page, go to Please give! U.S. tax-payers
and others can also make tax-free donations through Americans for Oxford at Remember to designate the Ruaha Carnivore Project as
the recipient of your donation. One hundred percent of your donations, through either link,
go directly to support RCP’s research and programmes that help people living in the Ruaha
landscape better coexist with carnivores.
Do you want to get involved with exploring wild Africa, from the comfort of your own
home? Now you can, through RCP’s newest initiative, the Ruaha Explorer’s Club (REC). REC
members become virtual explorers of the Ruaha landscape by sponsoring one of our camera
traps that move throughout this relatively uncharted area. Each camera’s images and GPS
coordinates are posted on designated Facebook pages that the sponsors control, giving
Explorers a unique insight into the work of RCP and the wonders of Ruaha’s wildlife. The
first sponsorships are being trialled and the programme will be made public in the spring of
2013. Look for news on this fun initiative on our website (
and Facebook page:
Page 5
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Despite the global significance of the Ruaha landscape, very little research has been
conducted to date; thus remarkably little is known about the number, distribution or
ecology of its valuable carnivore populations. We are working with a variety of stakeholders,
including Tanzanian authorities, Park lodges and tourists to collect as much reliable data as
possible on Ruaha’s carnivore populations. These data are then shared with organisations
such as TAWIRI, where we hope they will assist in the development of conservation and
management plans for carnivores in the Ruaha landscape.
RCP staff continue to analyse the data in the images recorded in our camera traps. To date,
we have recorded 8,027 camera-trap images, which involve 43 different wild mammal
species, including 22 carnivore species. While most images have come from the Park (4,607)
followed by Wildlife Management Area land (2,319) and then village land (1,101), species
diversity continues to be highest on Wildlife Management Area land (37 mammal species,
including 17 carnivore species), followed by the National Park (35 mammal species, 18
carnivore species) and village land (35 mammal species, 17 carnivore species).
Senior Research Assistant Monty Kalyahe is examining these data in more detail as part of
his Masters in Conservation Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.
Monty’s analysis will provide the first scientific data on carnivore diversity, distribution,
demography and abundance across different land-use zones of the Ruaha landscape.
This image of a young male lion was captured by a camera trap placed in the
Mpululu area of Ruaha National Park in December.
Page 6
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Carnivore sightings
Who better to collect data and images of carnivores than game drivers for the lodges in
Ruaha National Park? RCP has worked with the lodges, by equipping the drivers with digital
cameras and GPS units to record carnivore sightings during their daily travels. These data
will be used to identify individual animals and provide critical information on their
movement in and around the Park. Mwagusi Safari Camp’s three drivers lead the pack with
an incredible 1,112 sightings, Ruaha River Lodge (four drivers) has tallied 833 sightings,
Mdonya Old River Camp (two drivers) has reported 580, and Jongomero Lodge (two
drivers), the furthest southwest and our newest addition, has logged 20. From July 2012 February 2013, Mwagusi’s Vicent Kavaya collected the most sighting data forms and images
of carnivores, with 69 reports – thanks so much to all the lodges and drivers for the efforts!
In addition to providing an incredible amount of data, the game drivers’ photos are
gorgeous and sometimes quite dramatic. In 2013, we hope to hold a game driver photo
contest on Facebook, with such categories as “Best Identification Photo,” “Cutest Sleeping
Lion Photo” and “Most Dramatic Photo”.
This beautiful image was taken by Mwagusi Safari Camp driver Moses.
Additionally, visitors to the area are asked to tell us about carnivore sightings and, if
possible, email us their photos. So far, we have received information on 315 large carnivore
sightings, mainly from Ruaha National Park but also from occasional sightings outside the
Park. The majority of tourist sightings were of cheetah (125), followed by lion (93), then
leopard (71), spotted hyaena (24), and finally African wild dogs, with 2 reported sightings.
Page 7
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Visitors to Ruaha National Park can share their photos with RCP to help us track the
comings and goings of Ruaha’s resident carnivores, such as these cheetahs
(photo by Sasja van Vechgel (
These reports are extremely useful to us, so if you are planning to visit Ruaha National Park
or have visited it in the past and would like to share your sightings with us, please contact us
via Facebook or by email. The camera-trapping and sightings data are being used by MSc
student Leandro Abade, who has produced the first maps of likely carnivore presence across
Ruaha. These maps show the importance of the southern area of the Park, which is close to
village land – this really highlights the need for us to reduce human-carnivore conflict in the
villages, as carnivore killings in that area are likely to affect carnivores in the Park as well.
Map predicting priority (red) areas for large carnivores around Ruaha (c) Leandro Abade
Page 8
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
There is intense conflict between humans and large carnivores around the Park, caused
mainly by attacks on livestock, as well as a lack of tangible benefits from carnivore presence
for local people and little understanding of conservation. To address these issues, RCP
employs three main strategies: (i) reducing the costs of carnivore presence; (ii) improving
the benefits associated with carnivores; and (iii) providing education and outreach.
Reducing the costs of carnivore presence
More than 60% of carnivore attacks on stock occur at livestock enclosures, which are often
poorly constructed due to a lack of good materials. To address this, RCP works with villagers
to reinforce their bomas using chain-link fencing and tall posts made of, when available,
living trees that will fill out over time and become truly impenetrable. The livestock owner
pays half the cost and shares the labour with RCP, who brings in the necessary materials and
expertise. Not a single head of livestock has been lost while inside one of our reinforced
Thanks to grants, including from National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, the Columbus Zoo
and Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC), we have now reinforced over
50 bomas in 14 villages surrounding Ruaha National Park. While the Barabaig experience the
highest levels of livestock depredation - and kill the most lions in retaliation - they were
hesitant to try these bomas. However, in 2012 we convinced a Barabaig man to work with
us to reinforce his boma, and since then 10 more Barabaig households have followed. We
now have a waiting list of Barabaig households wanting reinforced bomas.
Locations of RCP reinforced bomas, colour-coded by village (c) Msafiri Mgumba
Page 9
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Reducing carnivore attacks upon villagers’ livestock economically benefits local people and
also has a valuable conservation impact by reducing retaliatory killing, which can have
devastating effects on carnivores and other wildlife.
Providing benefits linked to carnivore presence
Preventing livestock loss is only part of the battle. Since villagers derive few if any benefits
from carnivore presence, one of RCP’s priorities is to develop relevant, community-based
initiatives so that villagers can see real benefits from carnivore presence. The most-desired
benefits selected by villagers included education, human health and veterinary health. We
have already worked with villagers to equip a local healthcare clinic, and our progress on
education and veterinary health is detailed below.
To address educational needs, RCP’s Kids 4 Cats ‘sister school’ scheme pairs schools in more
developed countries such as England and the United States with schools in the villages
around Ruaha, with the goal of raising money to buy much-needed supplies. One of the
latest schools to join up the Kids 4 Cats programme is Longney Church of England Primary
School in Gloucestershire, England. Longney School has been twinned with Makifu Primary
School, which has 246 students and only six teachers. We have delivered over Tsh 4,000,000
(US$2,400) in books and supplies to our twinned schools and are continually expanding this.
Students at Idodi Secondary School display the books received from RCP’s
Kids 4 Cats Programme.
Page 10
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Many other local schools would love to have an international ‘sister school’ through Kids 4
Cats, so if you know of a school that might be interested, please contact us via our Facebook
page or email [email protected]
As mentioned earlier, we awarded our first six Simba Scholarships this year to secondary
school-age children from poor pastoralist families - those who traditionally suffer the most
from carnivore presence yet receive the fewest benefits. Because pastoralists live in the
outlying areas of a community, move around and often have few financial resources, their
children either don’t attend school at all or only attend primary school, which is free in
Tanzania. Our ultimate goal is to provide at least one secondary school scholarship for each
of the 22 local villages, so if you are interested in helping a child receive a secondary-school
education as a benefit of coexisting with carnivores, please contact us.
Veterinary Medicine Programme
Our surveys revealed that villagers lose nine times as many livestock to disease than to
predators, and if we can help lower that number, people should be better able to tolerate
the occasional loss due to predators. Thanks to a grant from the BBC Wildlife Fund, we
launched a pilot project that provides access for pastoralists to partially subsidised
veterinary medicines. Due to intense demand, we make the medicines available to people
who have invested in predator-proofing their bomas, which has caused demand for our
bomas to skyrocket. The medicines are another direct, tangible benefit to local people from
the presence of the project – and therefore carnivores – on village land, and these benefits
are highlighted and discussed during community meetings.
Our veterinary medicines programme provides commonly used livestock medicines to
pastoralists at a much-reduced price.
Page 11
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
With so few nongovernmental organizations working in the Ruaha area, local people often
have little awareness of conservation issues or the fact that carnivore presence can bring
significant economic revenue to the area. They are also often hostile towards the Park and
its wildlife, as they are unsure of its role and whether it provides any community benefits.
There is also often confusion about the causes of livestock loss; for instance, it can be
difficult to determine whether an animal died from an illness or injury and was then
scavenged or was killed by a predator. Improving local knowledge of these issues is a very
important part of RCP’s work.
We are very pleased to say that we have now surpassed the 10,000 DVD night participant
mark. DVDs about wildlife conservation are shown at village centres, schools and subvillages throughout the area and attract large crowds, providing RCP staff an excellent
opportunity to talk about wildlife, carnivores, and RCP’s programmes. To date, 2,418
students and 8,118 other villagers (2,405 men, 1,954 women and 3,759 children) have
attended DVD shows. Local people hugely enjoy the nature programmes, despite being
narrated in English, and we are very keen to work with our partners to eventually develop
Swahili versions – so if you could help with that, please let us know!
Villagers watching an educational DVD night, conducted by Ayubu Msago
Page 12
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
The vast majority of people who live in the villages surrounding Ruaha National Park have
never had the chance to visit it. Because many of the Park lodges’ guests fly directly into the
Park, most villagers do not realize how popular a destination it is for tourists. To help them
understand the value of the Park, and to see wildlife in non-threatening circumstances and
improve their understanding of both the Park and wildlife, RCP takes villagers into the Park.
Ruaha National Park staff have played a key role in this, and their community outreach team
meets with the villagers to explain the local role of the Park and answer questions.
Maasai villagers and Suleiman (one of RCP’s conflict officers) on an educational Park trip
Villagers are fascinated not only by the wildlife but also by the carloads of foreign tourists
and the planes landing at the Park airstrip. Everyone reports greatly enjoying seeing wildlife
and learning about conservation and the role of the Park, and we have a long waiting list for
future trips. More importantly, these trips are changing people’s perceptions about the Park
and carnivores: 82% of Park trip participants said the trip made them feel more positively
about potentially dangerous animals such as lions, 99% said the visit improved their attitude
towards the Park, and 100% said the visit made them feel more positively towards the
Ruaha Carnivore Project. Thanks to various grants, including from the Angel Fund at the
Cincinnati Zoo, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the BBC, to date RCP has taken
296 people (116 men, 75 women, 57 boys and 48 girls) on educational Park visits, and we
intend to continue and expand this initiative.
Page 13
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
We will be launching two new programmes and one exciting research project later in 2013.
The first programme is the livestock guarding dog (LGD) trial, which is being funded by the
Taronga Conservation Society of Australia. LGDs have been used very successfully by the
Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to protect goats and sheep from cheetahs and leopards in
Namibia, so we are keen to see if they will help reduce attacks and human-carnivore conflict
in Tanzania. We are working on permits and transport of the dogs at present and are aiming
to bring them from CCF to Tanzania in June. As soon as everything is in place, Msago will
travel to Namibia to bring back our first livestock guarding dogs. Secondly, to prevent
diseases being passed from domestic dogs to Ruaha’s African wild dogs – a key threat to this
endangered canid – we will be working with veterinary officers and partners to develop a
domestic dog vaccination initiative. Thanks to a grant from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo,
we will vaccinate local dogs in the three villages closest to wild dog territories for rabies and
distemper. This will also provide another valuable benefit to villagers, as rabies is a major
human health threat in this area.
2013 will be the year of the dog in terms of RCP plans!
Very excitingly, RCP recently received permission from the Tanzanian authorities to begin
satellite-collaring lions, in order to better understand patterns of movement and conflict
across the landscape. This will be exceptionally valuable as it will provide the first detailed
data on lion ecology for the Ruaha landscape and also will be linked to the Lion Guardians
programme, as the Guardians will help collar and track the lions on village land. We plan to
collar five to 10 lions, depending on available funds – stay tuned for more information!
We are grateful to everyone who has supported and helped us, and thanks for your interest
in the Ruaha Carnivore Project. Our next report will be published in autumn 2013, and until
then check our website and Facebook page for updates. For more information about RCP,
please contact Amy Dickman on [email protected]
Page 14
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Project partners
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Department of Zoology, University of
Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the Tanzania Carnivore Centre
Major sponsors (> $20,000) during May 2012 – April 2013
University of Oxford Kaplan Fellowship
National Geographic Big Cats Initiative
Peoples’ Trust for Endangered Species
Roger Fry
Taronga Conservation Society of Australia
Additional sponsors (> $1000) during May 2012 – April 2013
Angel Fund, Cincinnati Zoo*
AZA Conservation Endowment Fund
BBC Wildlife Fund
Blank Park Zoo
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Conservation and Research Foundation
Dallas Zoo
Feline Conservation Federation
Handsel Foundation*
Houston Zoo
John and Sheila Compton
Jonathan and Meg Ratner Family Foundation
Leiden Conservation Foundation
Scott Satterfield & Laura Brown
SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund*
Steven and Florence Goldby
Tom and Heather Sturgess
Woodland Park Zoo
Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Heidelberg
*Represents supporters who have given over $20,000 cumulatively over time
Page 15
Ruaha Carnivore Project Progress Report – Spring 2013
Fieldwork and education partners
David, Pat and Jon Erickson
Exmouth Community College
Clayton Middle School
Foxes African Safaris and Ruaha River Lodge
Honiton Community College
Jongomero Camp
Justin Brashares, Clinton Epps and Chantal Stoner
Kwihala Camp
Leo Sooter
Lion Guardians and Living with Lions
Longney C of E Primary School
Mdonya Old River Camp
Mwagusi Safari Camp
Steuart Weller Elementary School
Tandala Tented Camp
TwoMoors Primary School
Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN)
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Ruaha Landscape Programme
Other supporters
British Airways
Exmouth Rotary Club & Exmouth Raleigh Rotary Club
John Wilkes, Bearcreek and Sandcrab Trading
Peter Jones and the Big Picture, Oxford
Ro Dickman
WildCRU, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House
Abingdon Road, Tubney, Oxfordshire OX13 5QL, U.K.
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 611100
Email: [email protected]
Donate (tax-free US donations):
All other donations:
Page 16