Researcher: Stephanie Periquet
Region: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Humans and wildlife have coexisted for millennia, however the rapid growth of the human population has increased conflict between people and wild animals. Addressing wildlife-human conflict is particularly important for carnivores, many of which are vulnerable, threatened or endangered. Moreover, African savannahs have relatively high species-richness in both prey and predators compared with temperate ecosystems. As a result prey-predator and predator-predator relationships are complex. Generalist predators such as lion and spotted hyaena are able to use a wide range of prey. In the absence of their main prey, these animals may switch to another prey species, including livestock, or change their foraging behaviour.
One of the most extensively studied human-carnivore conflicts in Africa is lion-human conflict. Lion are highly emblematic of the African savannah but are also a threat to both livestock and humans. However, they are only one of many carnivores to prey upon cattle along with jackal, leopard and wild dog. Hyaena can also efficiently kill goats and sheep and, being known scavengers, use rubbish pits as a food source near human establishments. Although spotted hyaena are fairly numerous in numbers, they have been far less studied in this regard. Not yet endangered, hyeana have been classified as ‘threatened and increasingly dependent on protected areas’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
By their very nature, spotted hyaena will take advantage of anthropogenic food resources such as carcasses (due to legal hunting, poaching or road kill) or human refuse. In areas such as the communal lands surrounding Hwange National Park, livestock is an incredibly important part of the livelihood of the local inhabitants and therefore retaliatory killing of predators tends to take place.
The main aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of human-hyaena conflict within Hwange National Park and its bordering communities. In addition, the project will focus on whether competition with lion inside the protected areas of Hwange National Park could be responsible for hyaena hunting on communal land.
The main objectives of this project are to:
- Understand the relationship between lion and hyaena and determine whether there is competition between these two predators to the point that hyaena will move off protected land to avoid lion.
- Monitor hyaena diet and movements in order to comprehend the full extent of the conflict between communities and hyaena.
- Find solutions for limiting livestock attacks by hyaena, mitigating the consequences on both hyeana and humans.
To obtain the objectives, the following methodologies will be used:
- Interviewing local communities and collating hyaena predation, scavenger and attack reports
- Fitting GPS collars on both lion and hyaena (necessary in Hwange’s thick vegetation) to study hyaena time and space use both inside and outside the Park in relation to prey abundance and lion presence and activities.
- Gathering GPS data to also allow a study of interactions between lion and hyaena (home range overlap, presence at kills, movements).
Collecting hyaena scats to determine diet.
- Direct observation to collate data from lion kill sites and habitat selection in collaboration with hyaena whereabouts.
Building a foraging model for hyaena based on data from inside the protected area and extrapolating the results outside Hwange to predict livestock attacks.
- Monitoring communal dens and rubbish pits around villages.
Annual Report 2011
This project forms part of part of the French CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) HERD (Hwange Environmental Research and Development) Project.
Although less studied than other predators, the spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) is often in conflict with local populations killing livestock. In rural areas on the periphery of Hwange National Park (HNP), Zimbabwe, where livestock represents the only richness and source of income, conflict with hyaena has particularly serious consequences. This project aims at investigating the competition pressure between lion and hyaena in HNP, as well as quantifying and determining the characteristics of the human-hyaena conflict.
In the field, time has been spent collecting data on hyaena population, behavioural ecology and on human-hyaena conflict through observation, identification and monitoring of behaviour. Thanks to their unique spot patterns, every individual is being identified and a picture database created so individuals can be recognised and data collected on group composition. The same type of information is recorded at carcasses, although these observations are more oriented to feeding behaviour and interaction with lions. Carcasses are found either opportunistically or using clusters of GPS points from collar downloads. These clusters also help to identify den sites, where we monitor number and survival of pups but also clan composition and interaction between different individuals. In addition, a diet analysis using hairs present in scats is being performed.
Aside from this routine monitoring, an experiment on hyaena response to lion roars and cow bells in different situations is being conducted using playbacks of sounds collected in the field to simulate the presence of lion (source of danger but also food) in the vicinity or presence of livestock (potential prey). In the communal lands surrounding the protected area, every occurrence of livestock attack and/or kill by hyaena is recorded and spatio-temporal data collected. Once analysed, these data will ultimately be used to propose mitigation measures.
The end result is to be able to propose mitigation solutions to limit consequences of this conflict both for humans and hyaena and participate in large carnivore conservation in Africa.