Human-lion conflict in a drought-stricken landscape
The South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO) community conservation program in Olkirimatian Group Ranch aims to simultaneously conserve wildlife and the Maasai pastoral lifestyle by dividing the Olkirimatian Group Ranch into areas for grazing, agriculture and conservation.
SORALO provide guidelines for landscape use, and also collaborates with research programs to better understand lion movements, their role in the ecosystem, and their importance in maintaining Maasai culture. The program is viewed as a successful case of livestock and wildlife coexisting with low levels of conflict, but also demonstrates that human responses to extreme weather can undermine conservation successes.
During non-drought conditions, instances of human-lion conflicts are low as there is enough grass for herds to remain within grazing areas, and lion populations prey on wildlife such as wildebeest and zebra within conservation areas. However, during periods of drought, grazing areas have insufficient grass to support livestock, and pastoralists are allowed to move into areas set aside for conservation to graze their livestock.
The consequent increase in spatial and temporal overlap between wildlife and livestock leads to more conflict between humans and lions. Tolerance of lion predation on livestock decreases during drought events as the Maasai are already experiencing dramatic livestock losses, putting significant pressure and strain on SORALO community conservation efforts.
There are many situations where humans and wildlife co-exist without the support and infrastructure provided by a program like SORALO’s. In such cases, the relationship between humans and wildlife during extreme weather events is likely to be more unstable, resulting in worse outcomes for wildlife.