Ruaha Carnivore Project
|Project Location||Ruaha National Park and Pawaga-Idodi Wildlife Management area, Tanzania|
|Project Type||Wildlife and habitat conservation, Community conservation initiatives, Endangered species protection, Environmental education|
|Endangered Species||Lion, African wild dog, cheetah, leopard, spotted hyena|
|Land Area Protected||50000 km2|
|Local People Employed||50|
The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP), a part of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), was established in 2009 by Dr Amy Dickman, following her MSc and PhD work in Tanzania, which revealed extremely intense human-carnivore conflict in the Ruaha region.
This area supports key carnivore populations; including a tenth of the world's lion population, the third largest population of African wild dogs, and significant populations of cheetahs, leopards, and spotted hyaenas.
However, due to the threat posed by carnivores to the local communities, this area also had the highest recorded rate of lion killing in East Africa.
RCP's mission is to work together with local communities and the Tanzanian authorities to develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in the globally important Ruaha landscape.
Within this mission, RCP has two main goals: to obtain the first reliable scientific date on Ruaha's carnivore populations; and to improve human-carnivore coexistence in this vitally important ecosystem.
RCP use various techniques to learn more about Ruaha's carnivores, including camera trapping, documenting any signs of carnivores (footprints or droppings), and recording of direct sightings.
As the Ruaha landscape is so vast, RCP work closely with Ruaha National Park staff, lodges, and tourists, to ensure their collection of data is maximised.
All the data gathered by RCP is shared with the Tanzanian authorities and other stakeholders working within the area in order to help develop the most efficient conservation and management strategies.
In collaboration with Leela Hazzah and Panthera, RCP are bringing the successful Lion Guardians model to Ruaha. This is an innovative approach to lion conservation, which centres upon converting and employing local lion-hunters into conservationists and giving them a tangible incentive to secure carnivores' presence in their local areas.
According to RCP's research, approximately 65% of attacks by carnivores occur in poorly constructed livestock enclosures (bomas), so RCP has developed a boma predator-proofing programme, on a 75%-25% cost-sharing basis with each householder, to secure communities and reduce carnivore-human conflict.
To reduce the chance of livestock being attacked while grazing in the bush, RCP worked with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to place specialised Anatolian Shepherd livestock guarding dogs with local pastoralists.
Education and Healthcare
In a recent survey, local communities indicated that education was a top priority. In response, RCP are supporting 10 village schools in the Ruaha region, and through the Simba Scholarships, are providing fully funded secondary school scholarships for 6 promising pastoralist children each year.
In collaboration with the Ruaha National Park, RCP also organise educational visits to the park for local villagers in order to increase awareness about the Park's role and value to the local area.
RCP continue to provide supplies for the healthcare clinic they set up in one of the local villages, Kitisi. In terms of veterinary health, RCP work with the regional and local veterinary authorities to help pastoralists gain access to high-quality medicines. As the demand for such medicines is so high, RCP developed an initiative whereby people who have fortified their enclosures became entitled to medicines subsidised by RCP.
Tusk has supported RCP since 2013, providing the project with funds to continue securing livestock enclosures, providing educational Park trips for the local community, and to maintain their community benefit programme, whilst also assisting RCP with their more general operational costs.
I think it is very scary that our generation has the power to make such a huge difference to the future of big cats and other wildlife. If we really want to we can help secure their future, but if we do nothing, the outlook is very bleak – both for them and for future human generations. It is that urgency that really makes me do all I can to help save them, and help ensure that our generation’s grandchildren, and beyond, live in a world where big cats still roam out in the wild.