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Good News: Our Wildlife Partners Protect Domestic Animals, Too!

On this morning’s Facebook Live, you may have been hoping to see the famous Texas Longhorn, but in fact, were greeted by Ankole cattle! Although they look similar, the Ankole cattle is a domesticated breed of cattle from Eastern Africa.

Domestic animals like cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens are found throughout the world. In remote places like Tanzania, domestic animals provide a critical protein source to rural communities. However, domestic animals can be challenged when living next to large predators like lions, leopards, and hyenas.

Our saving wildlife partners, the Ruaha Carnivore Project, employ creative solutions to ensure communities can safely care for their domestic animals, while protecting wildlife.

A new, reinforced enclosure for livestock. Photo courtesy of Ruaha Carnivore Project.

The Ruaha Carnivore Project protects domestic animals and wildlife through several strategies. First, predator-proof enclosures. These enclosures (or bomas) are meant to corral livestock at night, keeping the domestic animals in, and the wildlife out. Usually, these bomas are made from plants – like thornbush. To make them more effective, our partners reinforce the enclosures with strong diamond-mesh fencing, attached to wood or metal poles.

These new enclosures have proved over 95% effective at reducing attacks from carnivores like lions, on domestic animals that people rely on for food and income.

Second, the Ruaha Carnivore Project uses livestock-guarding dogs. During the day, the livestock is outside their enclosures, grazing. This can be prove to be a challenging situation as the animals need to be outside the enclosure to eat, but find themselves open to predation by wildlife. To reduce this threat to the livestock, guarding dogs are used. These dogs are large breeds, like the Anatolian Shepherd – they live alongside and bond with the livestock and are extremely protective of them. They watch for any threats, and if they sense predators like lions in the area, they’ll bark to warn the predator, simultaneously alerting the herder who watches over the livestock, to the danger in the area.

A livestock-guarding dog protecting his herd. Photo courtesy of Ruaha Carnivore Project.

Innovative strategies like the ones used by Ruaha Carnivore Project help save wildlife – when lions, leopards, and hyenas don’t have the chance to hurt or kill domestic animals, communities are less likely to retaliate against them. The Houston Zoo partners with innovative wildlife protection projects like Ruaha Carnivore Project to ensure every species you see at the Zoo, is being protected in the wild… even domestic animals, like cattle and goats!

We need your support to continue this work. By supporting the Zoo’s Emergency Zoo Fund, you are supporting the animals and all of our animal care professionals here and around the world.