3 January 2023
EYE-COW AND PREDATOR DETERRENT LIGHTS FOR HUMAN-CARNIVORE CONFLICT MITIGATION
The Pride of Meru team have been trialling new strategies to mitigate human-lion conflicts, protecting both people and lions.
Human activities have caused a massive decline in lion populations and a contraction of their geographic range. The global wild population is only around 20,000 lions, and they are now listed as Endangered by the IUCN*. Lions present a challenge to conservation because of their large ranges, low densities, and high propensity to attack and kill livestock. These conflicts with people often result in retaliatory killings of the lions, further threatening their survival. The Pride of Meru team work hard to prevent conflicts between pastoralists and lions in the Meru Conservation Area (MCA), Kenya.
To combat livestock depredation in lion conflict hotspots within the MCA, the team have recently implemented two types of mitigation strategies: the Eye-Cow Technique and Predator-Deterrent Lights (PDLs):
Eye-Cow Technique for Livestock Protection
Lions and other big cats like leopards are ambush predators; they rely on stealth and the element of surprise in order to bring down their prey. Artificial eyespots painted on the hindquarters of cattle deter ambush predators from attacking cattle, significantly increasing their survival. Therefore, this technique presents a low-cost, non-lethal approach that could reduce the impact of coexistence. The Pride of Meru team painted a total of 136 cows within Kathangachini, Kanjoro and Mauthini sublocations. They are closely monitoring the survival of these cows to determine the effectiveness of this strategy.
Eyes painted on cattle rump with the intention of tricking lions to think that they have lost the element of surprise. Cattle from Kathangachini, Kanjoro and Mauthini, sub locations in Tharaka Nithi county.
Predator Deterrent Lights (PDLs)
The second initiative to combat livestock depredation in lion conflict hotspots that we are trialling in MCA is the deployment of renewable solar-energy Predator Deterrent Lights (PDLs). The team have placed these LED lighting systems around bomas (livestock enclosures), in order to deter predator attacks at night. Flickering lighting is important as it deters large carnivores’ movements near human settlements, as these lights disorient predators and disrupt their night vision. The flashing lights give the impression of someone walking around with a torch during the night, and therefore lions tend not to target livestock. The lights have been found to be effective in dissuading attacks of livestock in bomas in previous trials in Kenya, so the hope is that they will be an effective strategy in Meru.
We have installed a total of 192 PDLs on 24 bomas (eight PDLs per boma) within Kaningo, Kathangachini, Twathanju, Mauthini and Ntoroni sublocations around Meru National Park where many lions live. The team are currently monitoring lion visits and incursions into bomas to determine their effectiveness within these areas.
Installing PDLs around livestock bomas in Twanthanju sublocation.
“Trialling innovative conflict mitigation strategies is incredibly important,” says Born Free’s Conservation Officer, Joseph Hedges. “At Born Free we are always looking for new strategies to enable people and wildlife to coexist. Enabling coexistence will in turn benefit both people and wildlife, protecting and conserving many iconic species. The eye-cow method and PDLs are both simple, low-cost strategies to implement, and could have real benefits to the lion population and pastoralists of Meru. We will monitor their effectiveness over the coming months and are hopeful of demonstrating a positive impact, so keep an eye out for the results”.
The communities have expressed their gratitude for our efforts in combating human carnivore conflicts using these non-lethal strategies. We’re looking towards extending these initiatives to a wider reach within the MCA.
With your support, the team can continue deploying conflict mitigation strategies, to benefit people and livestock. You can donate to the Saving Lions appeal to help protect lions from retaliatory killing and preserve the livelihoods of pastoralist. Your support will go a long way in ensuring a peaceful coexistence with carnivores.
*IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature