We believe that human-widlife co-existence is achievable. Not only does the Rapid Response our vets and rangers team swoop in to save lions in the Park who may have been snared, but we also work in human-wildlife coexistenceoutside the Park; intervening when elephants, buffalo, hyena, lions and other large carnivores stray and enter community areas. Many times our interventions involve placing ranger teams among communities and ensuring the safety of both people and widlife. Other times, it can mean actively building bomas to secure livestock or erecting bee-hive fences to keep elephants out of crops, or capturing animals to return them to the safety of the Park.
Our first test came in 2016. While checking out lion GPS-collar data one night, we discovered that the signals from a young male lion’s collar indicated that he left the Park and was getting close to a local village.
We suspected that he had been poached (the river he crossed was flowing high after heavy rains) and sent a Rapid Response team via helicopter out at first light. Once on the ground, our team discovered lions tracks - He we still alive and hunkered deep in a patch of remaining forest -thicket close to farms and fields.
No-one in the community was yet aware the lion was in their midst, and we immediately secured people in the area, and deployed a team of scouts to keep people secure and prevent the lion from being harmed throughout the remaining day and night.
Suspecting he would cross back overnight we monitored his movements, and in fact at 2am the following day he did cross back in to the Park. Again, over a rapidly flowing river. This was the first- confirmed report of a lion we track in the Park leaving the Park and interacting with communities.
Rapid-response helped ensure no conflict between people and the lion, and we succeeded in building trust by demonstrating to the community that conflict could be avoided. Since then, we have intervened in several potentially volatile situations, and it is becoming clear that the Rapid Response unit not only saves lions lives, but is also an effective component in promoting sustainable human-wildlife coexistence.
In another important case, communities reported losing livestock to “lions” in the night that were killing goats every other night. On further investigation, we discovered it was in fact hyaena and not lion. Our teams got to work helping design and build bomas, fortified wooden structures, that would hold and secure goats at night and prevent further hyena predation.