Bells, bomas and beefsteak: complex patterns of human-predator conflict at the wildlife-agropastoral interface in Zimbabwe.
Loveridge AJ., Kuiper T., Parry RH., Sibanda L., Hunt JH., Stapelkamp B., Sebele L., Macdonald DW.
Reports of livestock depredation by large predators were systematically collected at three study sites in northwestern Zimbabwe from 2008-2013. We recorded 1,527 incidents (2,039 animals killed and 306 injured). Lions (Panthera leo) and spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) were mostly responsible, and cattle and donkeys most frequently attacked. Patterns of predation were variable among study sites. Nevertheless, some overall patterns were apparent. Predators selected livestock close to the size of their preferred wild prey, suggesting behaviours evolved to optimise foraging success may determine the domestic species primarily preyed upon. Most attacks occurred when livestock were roaming outside and away from their 'home' protective enclosures at night. Hyaena attacks were largely nocturnal; lions and leopards (Panthera pardus) were more flexible, with attacks occurring by day and at night. Livestock fitted with bells suffered a disproportionate number of attacks; the sound of bells appears to have conditioned predators to associate the sound with foraging opportunities. Lion and hyaena attacks on cattle were more frequent in the wet season suggesting that seasonal herding practices may result in cattle vulnerability. Only a small proportion of conflict incidents were reported to wildlife management officials with a bias towards lion predation events, potentially prejudicing conflict management policies. Predation on domestic stock involves an intricate interplay between predator behaviour and ecology on the one hand and human behaviour and husbandry practices on the other. Our data suggest that improved livestock husbandry (supervision of grazing animals, protection at night in strong enclosures) would greatly reduce livestock depredation.