Tanzania: Lions in Tarangire – Project Helps Sensitize Maasai

by Oct 9, 2010Big Cats

Arusha — At the earliest practical opportunity when I visited the Tarangire national park recently, I took advantage of visiting the Tarangire Lion Project based in the park.

There I found Mr. Dennis Minja an intern research assistant who is working under the able leadership of Dr. Bernard Kissui a research scientist attached to the African Wildlife Foundation in Arusha. The Lion project was started in 2003 to collect lion population dynamics, Lion demographic data and lion-human conflict.

The lion research was prompted by the fact that Maasais, the surroundings neighbour of Tarangire National Park, tradition culture of killing lions – as a sign of brevity – was against the conservation policy of the Tanzania National Parks.

On collecting lion’s population, lion-tracking radios are used to detect the signal from the radio-transmitting collars that had been fitted to 130 lions in the Park. There is daily schedule to check on their numbers and detect any loss of the lions, as the signal would always pinpoint the location of the lion.

The project has helped educate and sensitize the Maasais in 12 villages of Makuyuni, Selela, Losirwa, Engaruka, Olasiti, Oltukai, kakoi, Minjingu, Lobosireet, Emboreet, Lookisale and Loiborsoit – to do away with their culture relationship with the lions.

To discourage lions attacks into Maasais homes; the project has been helping the villager’s erect permanent fences to protect their cattle. This approach, according to Dennis has helped reduce lion’s attacks by more than 50%. Tarangire is said to have between 150 and 200 lions, according to the Park’s ecologist, Mr. Fredrick Mofulu, and the Tarangire Lion Project.

And by doing so, the lion population, which was threatened by the Maasai attacks, has nearly stabilized save from pockets of illegal hunting. However, poaching for ‘possibly’ subsistence meat is still an ongoing issue.

With three to four hunting companies operating around Tarangire National Park, contrasting the ideal primary core role of conservation and protection by TANAPA, that’s one of the drawbacks of Tarangire. Its animals that happen to venture into the hunting blocks – lured by grass or preys – are usually a target of professional hunters who are interested in trophies – with lions, buffaloes and elephants falling in this bracket.

There is need, I think, to review the ‘buffer zones’ between the national parks and hunting blocks. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism under which the Directorate of Wildlife responsible for hunting and TANAPA solely responsible for conservation and protection falling under its docket needs to mitigate the reality on the ground. Tarangire is one example of its wild animals falling into hunting blocks where the objectives of the interested parties are conflicting.