FCF Awards Grant to Ruaha Carnivore ProjectApril, 2013
The Feline Conservation Federation has awarded a $2000 grant for the support for the Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) on their Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) which provides vital baseline data on Ruaha’s large felids and other carnivores and to helps address conservation threats in this crucial area. Since 2009, the Ruaha Carnivore Project has been developing programs both to provide this baseline data and to mitigate the serious human-carnivore conflict that exists in the landscape, and has made tremendous progress in both areas.
Two ways that the RCP team has been collecting reliable data on wild cat numbers, demography and movement in Ruaha are through direct sightings and camera trapping. These methods provide vital data on the distribution and relative abundance of wild cats and a whole range of other species across the landscape, and have even confirmed the presence of certain species that were not conclusively known to occur there.
In addition to the ecological research, the team is striving to improve the cost-benefit ratio of wild cat presence on village land. Citizens must perceive a tangible and relevant benefit from wild cats’ presence in order to want to conserve them, and this is precisely what the RCP team is working to do.
Thus far, they have equipped a village clinic in the central pastoral area, created a ‘Kids 4 Cats’ partnership initiative with village and international schools, and have established ‘Simba Scholarships’, which provide fully-funded secondary school scholarships for local children. They are also working with colleagues in Kenya to develop the successful Lion Guardians model in Ruaha – this is an innovative approach, which employs young warriors who would traditionally kill lions, as lion researchers and conservationists.
At a wider scale, the team is educating the local communities about wild cats and the need for conservation through Swahili DVD shows and visits to the National Park. Additionally, they are helping farmers to fortify the enclosures for their livestock, and developing a livestock guarding dog program using Anatolian Shepherd Dogs imported in from the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia. According to Amy Dickman from RCP, “Changing attitudes is a slow process, but local people are already reporting less animosity towards wild cats and a greater recognition of benefits from their presence, so this work is having important results in terms of reducing conflict.