Ruaha Carnivore Project
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Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape is one of the most important places left in the world for lions and other large carnivores. This vast wilderness covers over 50,000km2, centred around the Ruaha National Park, which at over 20,000km2 is the largest Park in Tanzania and the second largest in the whole of Africa. This beautiful, rugged landscape supports amazing wildlife populations, including the world’s second largest population of lions – estimated at 3350, this represents around 10% of all lions left in the world. It also supports around 500 adult wild dogs and 200 adult cheetahs, making it extremely important for a range of threatened carnivores.
However, the Ruaha landscape covers a diversity of land-use zones, including village land adjoining the unfenced National Park. This village land provides vital habitat for carnivores, but they cause intense conflict with people by attacking domestic stock, which are both economically and culturally vital to the local pastoralist communities. Villagers have long suffered high costs from carnivore presence, and received no benefits, so they frequently killed them, leading to one of the highest recorded rates of lion killing in East Africa. Despite its global importance for lion conservation, the Ruaha area has long been overlooked, with no dedicated carnivore conservation projects until the development of the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) in 2009.
RCP works in close partnership with local villagers to develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in this vital area, and to collect ecological data for future carnivore action plans. The project focuses upon reducing attacks (for instance by predator-proofing livestock enclosures), providing direct local benefits from carnivore presence (e.g. healthcare clinics, secondary school scholarships and access to veterinary medicines) and improving local knowledge about carnivore conservation.
In addition, RCP is partnering with Lion Guardians in Kenya to engage young warriors in lion conservation and monitoring around Ruaha. The project has already demonstrated success, with reduced depredation, hostility towards carnivores and carnivore killing in the initial study area, but there is an urgent need to continue and extend this work, which will have important benefits for both people and predators.
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