By Jeremy Swanson
On this World Wildlife Day, we reflect on the past, look at the present, and talk about our dreams for the future, of lions and their roars in Tanzania and East Africa.
In protecting lions and supporting communities through Living Walls, the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) can now speak in vast numbers since the organization was established more than a decade ago.
150,000 Commiphora trees planted
650 Living Walls constructed
100 lions and other large carnivores protected
125,000 head of livestock safeguarded
12,500 individuals with strengthened livelihoods
Over 2015-16 alone, approximately 150 Living Walls (APW’s innovative, eco-friendly, lion-proof bomas) went up around cattle corrals throughout northern Tanzania. Moreover, approximately 80% of them were constructed in new APW expansion areas, with 90% outside APW’s home base east of Tarangire National Park in Simanjiro district.
“We have had a breakthrough year in terms of our expansion,” said Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld, APW’s executive director. “Carnivores and communities need more support than ever, which is why we aim to implement our comprehensive four-step process for community-driven conservation throughout northern Tanzania.”
Recent expansion areas for APW include West Kilimanjaro, home of the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area, and the Kitenden Corridor, which connects Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with the greater Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya. In the past three months alone, cattle herders in this cross-border ecosystem have killed at least four lions in retaliation for livestock predation at unfortified bomas.
Beyond such human-wildlife conflict incidents, lions also face extreme threats in terms of illegal hunting and habitat loss, which are some of the reasons why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the species to its endangered list late last year.
Fortunately for lions and communities, Living Walls work extremely well. The walls become living as Commiphora trees are planted around and grow through the chain-link fencing, making them virtually impenetrable. In 2015, in fact, Lichtenfeld and her colleagues also published a 10-year study in Biodiversity and Conservation that revealed how Living Walls are proven to be 99% effective in keeping carnivores out of cattle corrals.
“That’s just the first step for communities to strengthen their livelihoods and sustainably manage their natural resources,” said Lichtenfeld. “Even if it takes many more years, we are committed to seeing our partner communities through our four-step process to help them achieve goals that balance human and environmental interests.”