Assessment of predator-proof Bomas as an evidence-based conservation tool in Loitokitok sub-county, Kenya
Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) occurs when wildlife requirements encroach on those of the human population. The conflict has been in existence for many years, both in developing and developed countries. HWC in Africa, particularly livestock predation can results in great economic losses to communities as well as decline in carnivore’s species. The human-carnivore conflict has been intensified by loss of wildlife habitats, negative community attitudes, and the reduction in wild prey base due to the rapid demographic developments. In Kenya, various strategies such as compensation for livestock losses and injuries, guarding livestock while grazing in the field, translocation of the problematic predator, and use of barrier such as the predator-proof bomas (PPB) have been used to mitigate conflicts between human and carnivores. This study examined the use of the predator-proof bomas in mitigating human-predator conflict in the Amboseli ecosystem in Loitokitok sub-county. The researcher sought to find out the performance of predator-proof boma, the most problematic predator, community perception on the most problematic predator, effects of predator-proof bomas on community livelihood, and to compare the characteristics of predator-proof bomas and traditional bomas. Forty five respondents with predator-proof bomas from three group ranches, OGR, MGR and Kimana/Tikondo were first selected using a multistage technique. Additional 45 traditional bomas within the range of 1 kilometre were sampled using a paired experimental design. This was done to facilitate a comparisons of the traditional bomas and the predator-proof bomas characteristics, and the respondent’s perceptions and attitudes. Data was analyzed using frequencies tables, percentages, correlation and regressions. The results revealed that majority of the respondents were 42-49 years (31.1%), an indication that they had a relative long experiences with human-predator conflicts. On average, the bomas consisted of 20.41±1.654 people, 242.54±25.633 livestock, 5.03±0.390 traditional huts and 2.11±0.120 livestock gates. The respondents, had more Shoats (160.8±16.355) than cattle (81.99 ±11.870) and donkey (1.96±0.337). The mean circumference of the boma was 138.9±5.4681m. The size of the boma correlated with the total number of livestock in the boma (r= 0.386, n=90, p=0.000) but not the number of people. Livestock losses to predator were more in field than in traditional bomas. Hyena and lion accounted for the highest loss of shoats and cattle; with hyena mostly (37%) killing shoats and lions preying largely on cattle (34%). Hyena was cited as the most problematic predator (68%). There was a positive relationship between the most problematic predator and total number of livestock (r = 0.319, n=90, p = 0.002), boma circumference (r = 0.295, n=90, p = 0.005), number of traditional huts (r = 0.015, n = 90, p=0.892), numbers of gates around the boma (r = 0.173, n =90, p=0.103); and number of people in the boma (r=0.140, n=90, p = 0.188). Livestock predation was high both in the boma and in the grazing field during the wet seasons (April, September, October and December). This was attributed to availability of water in the entire ecosystem that trigger both herbivore and predator to migrate from the park into group ranches, where livestock becomes an easy prey compared to the wild herbivores. The fortification of bomas to predator-proof status resulted in the reduction in livestock predation at night in bomas by 91.11% (n=45). Majority of the respondents (62%, n=45) rated the performance of the predatorproof boma as ‘Excellent”. The predator-proof bomas resulted to reduced depredation on livestock and time spend guarding at night thereby positively enhancing the livelihood of the respondents. However, the effectiveness of the boma is largely depend on it’s the size, livestock numbers, number of entrances to the boma and the type of predator that challenges the boma. Majority of the respondents were conversant of the role of predator in the ecosystem (66%) and 73% were of the opinion that predators should be protected because they bring more benefits than harm and indication of the community’s level of awareness. The researcher recommends that an awareness should be carried out to encourage the community to keep vigilance of livestock grazing in the field to avoid predation during the day. The livestock should also be returned home early enough and counted, so that any lost livestock in the bush can immediately be searched before dark; construction and maintenance of the predator-proof boma should be encouraged as a long term solution to livestock loss at night and an additional research on distribution of prey densities effects on livestock predation problem should be carried out. The project implementing organization should focus on enhancing boma maintenance which will help to increase community ownership of the project and deter livestock attacks in the predator-proof bomas.