Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) is a Zambian-registered non-profit company that forms business partnerships with rural communities living in areas of important biodiversity. In the spirit of conservation, COMACO links villagers with urban consumers through a value chain of environmentally smart products. This drives solutions for conservation, food security, and improved rural incomes. An important subset of people who partner with COMACO are local hunters, whose dependence of wildlife has earned them the title of 'wildlife poachers'. COMACO has worked with 647 such hunters in the eastern Luangwa Valley, and over the past six years has transformed their livelihoods from wildlife destruction to more profitable strategies linked to markets that COMACO helps to build.
The 'poacher transformation' approach has contributed to a significant reduction in poaching in eastern buffer areas surrounding Luangwa Valley's national parks. During the Valley-wide survey in 2009 not a single fresh (0-2 years old) elephant carcass was sighted. The approach also dramatically lowers the cost of removing the poaching threat in a wildlife area. On average, conventional law enforcement strategies cost about $800 for every illegal hunter arrested and convicted in a court of law, whereas the cost of transforming a poacher costs about $250.
The methodology developed by COMACO to transform a poacher is now refined and far more cost-effective than when the programme started. Trained staff are equipped and able to facilitate the transformation process at a relatively fast pace, and the programme is well-positioned to turn its focus to the western boundary of this important wildlife-rich ecosystem. Throughout this region, stretching from Serenje to Chinsali Districts, localised gangs of poachers continue to hunt and evade wildlife policing efforts. These poachers are well-known to local authorities who work closely with COMACO to identify hunters and pressure them to change their ways with the promise of gaining improved alternative livelihood benefits under COMACO.
1. To transform a total of 95 local hunters from Serenje and Chinsali Districts, focusing on those areas from whence serious poaching threats emanate
2. Maintain ongoing monitoring of transformed poachers to verify compliance to programme guidelines
3. Support and link transformed poachers to COMACO-provided market opportunities
In accordance with IUCN recommendations, ZCP's efforts are targeted at expanding African wild dog conservation into larger areas to increase the viability of the population. To provide sustainability of wild dog conservation in Zambia, ZCP's key objectives are to:
1. Collaborate with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and project partners to secure sufficient habitat to allow natural dispersal between wild dog populations in the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa National Parks, by increasing connectivity between the two Parks through existing Game Management Areas.
2. Continue the current applied research programme to provide high-quality data for use in conservation strategies and National Park management planning in the eastern Zambia region.
3. Develop and expand the local school and adult education programme to increase awareness and reduce direct and indirect persecution of wild dogs, and to build community support for the project.
4. Collaborate with ZAWA, Department of Veterinary and Livestock Development and local stakeholders to build capacity and ensure implementation of an ongoing conservation management plan for the local wild dog populations.
Collaring and Monitoring of Packs and Dispersing Groups
Field research methods will follow those established by ZCP over the last 10 years, namely collecting detailed data on wild dog demographics, spatial dynamics, genetics, disease exposure, habitat selection, prey selection, interspecific competition, and limiting factors and threats to their persistence. Data will be collected via VHF, GPS, and satellite collars on various individuals and packs.
Competing Carnivore, Prey, and Habitat Studies
AWDC has expanded into a broad-based carnivore study and thus will also be conducting concurrent studies on instrumented lion and hyaena populations in an effort to better understand the dynamics of these three species. In addition, annual prey and competing carnivore surveys conducted since 1999 will be continued, as well as vegetation mapping, and remote sensing work as part of additional funding leveraged through ZCP collaborations.
Addressing Snaring Threats
As part of their anti-poaching work, the South Luangwa Conservation Society and Conservation Lower Zambezi will also coordinate ZAWA and community scouts to conduct anti-snaring patrols in areas of high risk for dogs, as identified by the movement data collected by the project. When snares are encountered they will be removed and coordinates recorded, with data incorporated into threat assessments and evaluations of the effectiveness of these efforts in decreasing snaring mortalities for wild dogs.
Annual Report 2011
Threats to wildlife and natural resources caused by problems of food shortage, lack of income and lack of livelihood skills continue to be a challenge for wildlife conservationists working around Luangwa Valley and especially in the western regions of the Luangwa Valley. To address this challenge, two Poacher Transformation Trainings were conducted in Serenje. The first one was held from 7 September to 7 October, 2009. This was the ninth of its kind, where 38 were trained by COMACO and in turn they trained 95 others.
The second Poacher Training was held from 7 to 28 June, 2010. 32 participants were trained by COMACO, who in turn trained 61 others. Serenje has to date trained 226 poachers, and as a result, 411 guns and 3 092 snares have been collected.
Training included topics such as carpentry, metal fabrication and basic conservation farming skills and other livelihood skills as vegetable gardening, fish farming, poultry and goat rearing. COMACO has also assisted transformed poachers with basic tools for the activities they want to be engaged in such as carpentry and metal fabrication kits, gardening tools, goats, fish fingerlings, etc. These tools ensure that that the transformed poacher makes a living from the skills learnt and earns some legal income.
The challenge remains for COMACO to intensify these trainings in Serenje and other districts around COMACO operational areas where poaching incidences still occur and many poachers have still not been transformed.
Together with ZAWA, efforts by law enforcement have been combined with COMACO’s alternative livelihoods approach to ensure that wildlife numbers are increased and natural resources in protected areas and their surrounding areas are conserved.