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Lion conservation in west and central Africa: Integrating social and natural science for wildlife conflict resolution around Waza National Park, Cameroon

Lion conservation in west and central Africa: Integrating social and natural science for wildlife conflict resolution around Waza National Park, Cameroon
Hans Bauer


Institute for Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, 2311 EZ Leiden, THE NETHERLANDS.


Integrating social and natural science for wildlife conflict resolution around Waza National Park, Cameroon

The present dissertation is based on research in Waza National Park (NP), Northern Cameroon, and at Leiden University, The Netherlands, from 1995 to 2002. It contributes to the multi-disciplinary discipline of conservation science and attempts to integrate social and natural science for the analysis of the conflict between local people and lion conservation. It is composed of three parts: background (Chapter 1-3), human - lion conflict (Chapter 4-8) and discussion (Chapter 9-11).

Part I: Background

Waza NP is a protected area of approximately 160,000 ha in the Sudan-Sahel zone of the Far North Province of Cameroon. The Eastern half of the Park is a wetland which is part of the Logone floodplain, the Western half is woodland savannah partly dominated by Acacia seyal. Rainfall is erratic between years, with an annual mean of circa 600 mm during the rainy season from June to November. The Park contains important mammal and bird populations, including species that are increasingly rare in West and Central Africa, such as elephant (Loxodonta africana), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), various antelope species, hyena (Crocuta crocuta), ostrich (Struthio camelus) and crowned crane (Balearica pavonina). There is also a population of approximately 60 lions (Panthera leo). The research questions addressed here are: (1) what is the lionís conservation status; (2) how may human - lion conflict around Waza NP be described; and (3) which conservation strategies are most appropriate for lion conservation, particularly in the context of Waza NP. Chapter 1 describes the area and research questions in more detail.

Waza NP is entirely surrounded by human settlements; it is not fenced and there are many interactions between the Park and the surroundings. These interactions have become more intense since the beginning of the 1990ís, first with the decline of law enforcement capacity during the onset of the economic crisis and later as a result of a shift towards more participatory management of the Park. The latter trend is omnipresent in Africa and aims to promote local peopleís participation and collaboration in conservation. Chapter 2 gives a review of this trend with examples from all over Africa and, in the case of Cameroon, gives an analysis of concomitant changes in legislation. The most relevant legal change for National Parks in Cameroon has been the de jure freedom for locally adapted management if defined in a duly approved management plan. This policy has only been partially or selectively implemented so far.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MINEF) adopted a management plan for Waza NP in 1997 that explicitly addressed the social context, including the creation of a discussion forum, the recruitment of local guards and the promotion of eco-tourism. The management plan also allowed experiments with limited consumptive use of a few natural resources, in exchange for peopleís collaboration. In order to determine which resources were desired and which resources were a liability, people in the Parkís vicinity were interviewed (Chapter 3). Respondentsí attitudes towards conservation were positive, primarily motivated by use values, but partially also by intrinsic values and reference to future generations. Attitudes were significantly related to locally perceived benefits. Respondents found most of the Parkís resources useful but differences between user groups were significant. User groups also differed in their complaints about human - wildlife conflicts, but overall they considered the animal species that are most important for tourism as the main nuisance. The analysis showed that local aspirations cannot all be met, but indicates that limited outreach can improve the existing public support for conservation measures.

Part II: Human - Lion conflict

The number of free ranging lions in Africa had never been accurately assessed. Chapters 4 and 5 present an inventory of available information, which gave a conservative estimate of between 16,500 and 30,000 free ranging lions in Africa. The inventory shows that the species still occurs widely in East and Southern Africa, whereas populations are small and fragmented in West and Central Africa. The lion has historically probably been widespread at low densities in West and Central Africa. Nowadays it is largely restricted to small isolated populations inside and around protected areas. The total regional number is probably between 1000 and 2850, the best possible guestimate is 1800. Human influences form the main cause for the suspected decline of lion populations, both inside (ineffective management) and outside protected areas (incompatibility with human land use). Very little conservation and research efforts have targeted West and Central African lions. Waza NP is representative for the regional situation, with livestock depredation by lions as one of the main challenges in the human - lion conflict.

Chapter 6 reports the results of a series of so-called Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA) in villages around Waza NP, with a strong thematic focus, namely human - predator conflict. Methods included specific tools such as the use of predator pictures to determine local presence. The results showed that the human ñ predator conflict was serious in the areas around Waza NP. Conflict was mainly caused by depredation of cattle by lions and depredation of sheep and goats by hyenas; other forms of conflict and human casualties appeared to be rare and less important. During problem ranking and restitution, depredation was confirmed to be a priority problem in the woodland zone to the South of the Park. In the floodplain, however, people agreed that the level of conflict with predators was acceptable, while there was hardly any conflict to the East of the river Logomatya. Another conclusion was that thematic PRA can generate a good impression of a situation, despite some biases, especially in quantitative data. Repetition of the same exercise in several settlements and triangulation of results from different methods were instrumental in clarifying overall tendencies and in showing local variation.

Chapter 7 is based on a telemetry study of five collared lions. Their home ranges were assessed; the mean size was 630 km2 which is extremely large. The lions differed in their stock raiding behaviour, with two male habitual problem animals, one female non-problem animal and two female seasonal problem animals that left the Park in the wet season. Problem animals had a large part of their home ranges outside the Park, up to 30 km South. Seventy- two percent of the observations of one habitual problem lion were outside the Park. He was demonstrated to have killed 7 cattle, 9 sheep and 9 goats during four weeks of intensive monitoring. This was extrapolated to a mean annual stock killing of 143 cattle, 183 sheep and 183 goats by the collared lions, which does not contradict the results of structured interviews estimating the value of total annual lion damage at US$ 130,000. This chapter has an appendix with a detailed description of a unique observation. After immobilisation for the telemetry study, one adult female lion had a thorn in her front paw. She was observed attempting to remove it with the use of another thorn clamped between her teeth. This was the first record of a lion using a tool.

The combination of fragmentation and low density is typical of lions in West and Central Africa and different from most areas where lions have been intensively studied. Chapter 8 reviews the sparsely available information in order to investigate the effect of these conditions on lion social behaviour. It is suggested that lion group size is substantially lower than in other regions, possibly affecting pride structure. Three hypotheses are proposed to explain the differences between the regions: low mean prey density, low mean prey body size and high mean proportion of domestic animals in lion diet.

Part III: Discussion

A methodological discussion is provided in Chapter 9. Three methods for the assessment of human - lion conflict were compared: PRA, structured interviews (not elaborately presented in previous chapters but reported in paragraph 9.4) and telemetry. These methods represent the participatory, social and natural science paradigms, respectively. Inputs and outputs for each of the studies were assessed and compared, inputs in monetary terms and outputs in terms of publications and recommendations. Quantitatively, inputs and outputs were largest for telemetry and smallest for structured interviews, but the ratio was similar for all three methods. Qualitatively, the methods were shown to be largely complementary, while limited overlap allowed triangulation which showed concurrence of the different results. PRA, structured interviews and telemetry generated different recommendations, with increasing precision and decreasing scope.

A contribution to the discussion on conservation strategies in Africa is presented in Chapter 10. The case of Waza NP is used to enrich the debate on ëfortressí or ëgovernment based conservationí versus ëcommunity based conservationí with two contributions. The first is that wildlife damage should be taken into account in the assessment of a local cost-benefit analysis of conservation, which considerably reduces the scope for community based conservation. The second is to take structural political and financial influence of international organisations into account, which increases the scope for conservation in general. The term ëglobally mediated conservationí was proposed as a third and more promising alternative, especially for carnivore conservation in West and Central Africa.

Chapter 11 offers a final discussion around three themes: lion ecology, human - lion conflict resolution strategies and the management plan of Waza NP. It is argued that lion conservation in Waza NP is important, which requires addressing the human - lion conflict. Several options to achieve this are presented, organised by strategy: conflict avoidance, mitigation or compensation. The applicability in the case of Waza NP is evaluated for each. Human - lion conflict resolution must be accompanied by general improvements in conservation effectiveness of Waza NP. To this end, the management plan of Waza NP is integrally discussed. Finally, several recommendations are made.