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Human–wildlife conflict, benefit sharing and the survival of lions in pastoralist community‐based conservancies
- Blackburn, Sara, Hopcraft, J. Grant C., Ogutu, Joseph O., Matthiopoulos, Jason, Frank, Laurence
- Journal of applied ecology 2016 v.53 no.4 pp. 1195-1205
- Panthera leo, adverse effects, attitudes and opinions, carnivores, conservation areas, ecosystems, environmental factors, females, grazing, human settlements, human-wildlife relations, livestock, male effect, mark-recapture studies, models, politics, predators, social behavior, social environment, surveys, survival rate, vegetation cover, wildlife, Kenya
- Like many wildlife populations across Africa, recent analyses indicate that African lions are declining rapidly outside of small fenced areas. Community conservancies – privately protected areas that engage community members in conservation – may potentially maintain wildlife populations in unfenced pastoralist regions, but their effectiveness in conserving large carnivores has been largely unknown until now. We identify drivers of lion survival in community conservancies within the Masai Mara ecosystem, Kenya, applying mark–recapture analyses to continuous sight–resight surveys. We use the number of livestock and human settlements as proxies for potential human–lion conflict whilst controlling for environmental variables and lion socioecology. Average lion densities within the Mara conservancies between 2008 and 2013 (11·87 lions 100 km⁻²) were 2·6 times higher than those previously reported in 2003. Survival rates varied amongst prides and were highest for lions utilizing central regions of conservancies. The number of livestock settlements (bomas [corrals] and manyattas) that were not members of a conservancy, and that fell within a pride home‐range, had a large negative effect on female survival and was the most influential external predictor in models. These non‐conservancy settlements accounted for 37·2% of total observed variation in survival, whereas conservancy settlements, which benefit financially from wildlife through their membership, had no effect on lion survival. Internal drivers of survival agreed with known ecology and social behaviour including age plus a negative effect of male takeovers on cub survival <6 months. Vegetation cover, prey availability and the density of grazing livestock within a pride's range did not explain patterns in lion survival. Synthesis and applications. We show that lion densities have increased substantially within the Mara conservancies over the last decade and suggest that the creation of community conservancies has benefitted their survival. This suggests that lions can survive outside of fenced areas within pastoral regions if communities gain benefits from wildlife. We highlight the importance of expanding existing conservancies beyond their current geographical and political scope and forming buffer zones if wildlife ranges outside them. We suggest that changing attitudes to predators should be a key goal of community‐based conservancies. Further work is recommended to identify what specific aspects of conservancy membership promote lion survival.