Limiting Depredation by African Carnivores: the Role of Livestock Husbandry
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Most large carnivore species are in global decline. Conflict with local people, particularly over depredation on livestock, is a major cause of this decline, affecting both nominally protected populations and those outside protected areas. For this reason, techniques that can resolve conflicts between large carnivores and livestock farmers may make important contributions to conservation. We monitored rates of livestock depredation by lions ( Panthera leo), leopards (Panthera pardus), cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), and spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), and retributive killing of these species by farmers in livestock-producing areas of Laikipia District, Kenya. Farmers killed more lions, leopards, and spotted hyenas where these predators killed more livestock. Livestock husbandry had a clear effect on rates of depredation and hence on the numbers of predators killed. Cattle, sheep, and goats experienced the lowest predation rates when attentively herded by day and enclosed in traditional corrals (bomas) by night. Construction of the boma, the presence of watchdogs, and high levels of human activity around the boma were all associated with lower losses to predators. Although most of this work was carried out on commercial ranches, local Maasai and Samburu pastoralists have practiced nearly identical forms of husbandry for generations. Our study shows that traditional, low-tech husbandry approaches can make an important contribution to the conservation of large carnivores.