Lion (Panthera leo) populations in Kenya are becoming increasingly threatened. The Kenya Wildlife Service has identified a number of lion conservation “hotspots,” including Amboseli, Tsavo and Samburu, where one of the most immediate and serious threats to these species is conflict with humans.
Shrinking habitats and reducing numbers of natural prey (due to drought and poaching for the illegal bushmeat trade) have resulted in an increase in the number of livestock being predated by lions and hyenas. The consequences of such livestock predation is retaliatory killing of lions by local communities. The predators are killed either by spearing, or are gruesomely poisoned using Furadan (or other lethal carbofuran). This deadly poison presents a threat to other non-targeted species such as vultures, cheetahs and jackals.
The majority of attacks by predators on livestock are at night, when livestock are enclosed in traditional “bomas” (night-time enclosures made of a ring of cut thorns, approximately 1.5 meters high). Predators find these bomas easy to penetrate, and livestock housed in the traditional bomas are therefore an easy target.
Lion-proof bomas provide the perfect solution. These reinforced bomas are based on the traditional design and additionally incorporate a 2-metre-high wire fence, fence posts and solid outward-opening metal doors. Highly effective (recording a 100 percent success rate so far), these bomas are easy to install and are good value for money. To date, Born Free, in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Living with Lions, the Kenya Wildlife Trust and the local Maasai community, has supported the construction of 16 lion-proof bomas in Amboseli. The Maasai community that have benefitted from the project no longer see a need to take revenge on lions and hyenas, and community members are now promoting peaceful coexistence between predators and people.
The cost of livestock depredation for Amboseli’s Maasai community is high. The loss of a single cow represents the loss of four months income for an average Maasai family. Livestock is the sole source of income for the majority of Maasai families in Amboseli. The lion-proof bomas therefore provide important protection for livestock from predation, resulting in improved economic and social security for these communities.
Lions also play a critical role in Kenya’s tourism industry. An apex predator, lions are one of Kenya’s flagship species and their presence in the area attracts eco-tourism. Furthermore, there are a number of additional, associated, economic benefits that comes with a thriving tourism industry — including employment for local people and improved markets for locally-produced products — providing some members of the community with alternatives to the traditional reliance on livestock.
Born Free believes that humans can co-exist with wildlife, and the lion-proof boma project in Kenya is proof that we are right!
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