Life-saving ‘bomas’ arrive in Meru

Based on our successful work in Amboseli, Kenya, Born Free’s important new project in Meru is empowering local people, protecting livestock and saving lions.

A group of men wearing Born Free T-shirts helping to construct a boma

Born Free’s tried and tested ‘predator-proof bomas’ – reinforced livestock enclosures used in our Pride of Amboseli programme to reduce human-carnivore conflict – are now being brought to the Meru Conservation Area (MCA). Our Pride of Amboseli Programme Manager, Dr David Manoa, and Pride of Meru Programme Manager, Michael Mugo, report on the launch of this exciting initiative. 

Negative interactions between people and wildlife result in social and economic losses and can lead to the retaliatory killing of vulnerable wildlife species such as African lions. Since 2002, the African lion population is estimated to have declined by 36% in its historical ranges, according to IUCN*. In Kenya, lion numbers are estimated to be just over 2,500 – down from about 10,000 lions in 1970s and 80s (although happily the population is now starting to increase again).

Two men constructing part of predator-proof boma, by fixing wire to a wooden frame.

Constructing the boma (c) Faith Ndunge

The decline in lion population is partially attributed to the retaliatory and pre-emptive killing of lions by pastoralists, due to livestock predation. Therefore, innovative conflict mitigation measures are vital in building resilience and promoting coexistence between people and wildlife.

Born Free is a dynamic and innovative organisation, which is why back in 2010 we launched an initiative in Amboseli to construct ‘predator-proof bomas’ (PPBs). We wanted to help the lion population increase and safeguard the local community’s main source of livelihood – livestock. Since then, over 400 PPBs have been constructed in Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro ecosystem (AWKE), with an estimated efficacy of 91% in reducing livestock predation at night.

Overall, the PPBs have contributed toward the increase in the lion population in AWKE from an estimate of 50 individuals in 2010 to about 141 today. These predator-proof bomas not only protect livestock from lions, but also from other carnivores including hyenas and leopards.

Now, based on the lessons learned in AWKE, PPBs are now being replicated in Meru Conservation Area in a bid to help reduce livestock predation at night and revengeful killings of lions.

A group of sheep and goats inside a predator-proof boma

Livestock inside a PPB (c) Faith Ndunge

In a span of one year, our locally employed Conservation Ambassadors have reported 300 incidences of human-carnivore conflicts around Meru National Park. Sadly, most of these depredation events have resulted in a significant loss of livestock, aggravating the relationship between people and wildlife.

In order to stem rising incidents of conflict between humans and wildlife, Born Free’s Pride of Meru team has started building nine PPBs for community members – selected based on high livestock attacks by carnivores. These are the first ever PPBs to be constructed in the community area of MCA.

One of the PPBs beneficiary, Julius Muthee from a village in Twathanju sub-location said: “I am very excited to be a predator proof boma recipient, it will help to eliminate the problem of hyena feeding on my goats and sheep”.

Born Free’s team is delighted to now be building on the remarkable success attained in AWKE. An experienced PPB construction technician from AWKE is supporting our field team undertaking the construction work in Tharaka North in Tharaka-Nithi County, where seven PPBs will be built, and Kaningo location in Kitui County, where we will build two PPBs.

Interestingly, the PPBs in Meru are smaller, averaging 78 metres in circumference, compared to those in Amboseli which are an average of 220 metres in circumference. These first nine PPBs are being fully paid for by Born Free, with the community providing labour and being trained on maintenance. After raising awareness about the PPBs in MCA, and assessing their effectiveness in reducing conflict, a community participatory cost-share approach will be adopted for project ownership and sustainability, similar to the system we have developed in Amboseli.

Please donate today to support this important and growing initiative to reduce human-carnivore conflict and help protect the lions of Meru. 


*International Union for the Conservation of Nature