Tanzania Ruaha Community Camera Traps
Living alongside carnivores like lions, can impose significant costs for communities. Mainly through attacks to livestock. Lion Landscapes is working with communities to prevent livestock predation, and unlock the value of wildlife for them by linking financial support from philanthropy, tourism and ecosystem services to the direct presence of lions and other wildlife.
As part of their Ruaha Carnivore Project, established in 2009 by their joint CEO Dr. Amy Dickman, they have co-developed a fantastic community camera trap program with communities in Ruaha, southern Tanzania. The program delivers healthcare, veterinary and educational benefits to communities based on the presence of wildlife on their land.
It started with four villages close to the Ruaha National Park boundary. Each village selected two members to be employed as ‘camera trap officers’ and they were trained in how to set up, maintain and download images from the camera trap, and provided with bikes and GPS units to assist them to place the cameras.
Lots of meetings were held and the communities decided on where camera traps were to be placed and they collaboratively agreed on the number of points each species of wildlife was worth if caught on camera. These values were influenced by which wild animals were more threatened or caused more conflict.
For example, a small antelope like a dik dik generated 1 000 points, while a lion, cheetah or leopard generated 15 000 points. The most valuable animal generating 20 000 points was the endangered and conflict-prone African wild dog. The number of points would be doubled if an animal had a tracking collar, while no points were awarded for animals with evident snare injuries.
The four villages would compete against each other on a quarterly basis, to see who can generate the most points. The winning village in each quarter then received the greatest share of community benefits (USD 2,000, currently split equally between healthcare, veterinary medicines and education, as they were the top local priorities), followed by a USD 1,500 worth for the second village, USD 1,000 worth for the third and USD 500 worth for the fourth village.
At the end of the quarter, the four villages congregate in the winning village to hold a celebration known locally as a Sherehe. At the Sherehe the images from the camera traps are shown to everyone for transparency and a chance to learn more about the wildlife they have on their land.
This project has been truly community-co-developed and driven, and it has been really successful. Before hyena dens were poisoned and burned in fear, and now communities actively look out for dens to place cameras near them. Some communities have placed bans on both Lion and elephant hunting, and have punished anyone involved with penalty fines of cattle.
It was not all smooth sailing, issues arose like the positioning of camera traps on the boundaries of the village land, and suspicion of camera theft, but through lots more meetings communities came up with solutions and rules to address these.
This programme is currently operating in twelve villages adjacent to Ruaha National Park, with each group of four villages competing against each other for a share of the benefits and adapting the scoring system to its group’s local requirements.
Lion Landscapes have also already started working on adapting it with other communities in other areas of Tanzania as well as in Laikipia, Kenya where it could help reduce the pressing threat of human-wildlife conflict.
If you would like to donate to this project you can do so through our foundation.
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