10 April 2023
SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE
Dr David Manoa, Manager of Born Free’s Pride of Amboseli project, explains how reinforcing traditional bomas can help lions and people live together without conflict.
Born Free’s longest-running conservation programme, the Pride of Amboseli, has initiated the widespread implementation of predator-proof bomas (PPBs) since 2010. PPBs have proven to be a simple, low-cost, and highly effective method of reducing livestock depredation.
David Manoa, the Programme Manager for the Pride of Amboseli, explains how PPBs contribute to mitigating human-carnivore conflict, thereby enabling peaceful coexistence between people and lions.
Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a major challenge to the conservation of wildlife worldwide. The Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya, was identified as one of the HWC hot spots by the Government of Kenya about 15 years ago. The ecosystem includes the Amboseli National Park and the surrounding community land.
The park is not fenced, and hence there is free movement of wildlife between the park and the community settlement areas. Therefore, one of the major challenges is the predation of livestock by large carnivores, including lions, when they move out of the protected areas into community lands.
Unfortunately, retaliatory killings of lions through spearing and poisoning occur in response to this predation, threatening the survival of Kenya’s lion population. Despite the fact Kenya is considered one of the strongholds of lions, only 2,500 individuals remain – although the numbers have increased slightly in recent years (https://www.bornfree.org.uk/news/lion-increase-kenya). The decline in the lion population in Kenya from about 10,000 in the 1970s & 80s to about 2000 lions in 2010, can, in part, be linked to predation of livestock at night when lions enter the traditional pastoralists’ kraals (bomas).
Born Free responded to the government’s pleas to save the Kenyan lions. As such, in 2010 Born Free introduced ‘predator-proof bomas’ (PBBs), an innovative tool that protects livestock from predators in the Amboseli ecosystem. Unlike the traditional Maasai homesteads, PPBs have strong posts (6ft [1.8m] from the ground), strong doors and rolls of chain-link fencing. PPBs are effective in barring not only lions but also other predators such as hyenas and cheetahs from gaining access to livestock at night.
One beneficiary said: “Since the upgrading of my boma in 2020, it has been a big relief to my family and me. I used to lose my livestock to predators almost daily, as I seem to live near areas liked by the wildlife which sometimes move between Kenya to Tanzania.”
The community members contribute 25% of the cost of the boma (an average size PPB being 220m in circumference), and in return, they receive energy-saving stoves, water storage tanks and solar light units, alongside the upgrading of the boma itself. The PPBs, with these three components, are also known as ‘smart bomas’. The energy saving stoves and solar lights are important in reducing pollution and preventing excessive deforestation of trees in already depleted habitats.
Water storage tanks are important in a water-scarce environment. These elements also improve the well-being and health of beneficiaries, by providing low-polluting lighting, allowing children to complete their homework in the evening, and providing clean water to drink for both people and livestock.
To date, BFF has constructed 382 PPBs, protecting approximately 90,000 livestock belonging to almost 5000 people. The lions are also safe, as community members now have no reason to retaliate. Our work, alongside other conservation efforts, has contributed to the increase in the lion population in Kenya. In the Amboseli ecosystem, the lion population has also increased from about 50 lions in 2010 to the current population of 141.
With your support, Born Free will continue to save lions, protect the community’s only sources of livelihood, and extend our work in other areas that are experiencing conflict.