project news

Human/Wildlife Conflict in Tanzania

News item submitted by Jonathan Usherwood
News item dated 25 Feb 2011


Human populations are expanding; a consequence of this is that natural habitats are shrinking as a result of land being converted or degraded. As human settlements encroach on natural habitats wildlife is more likely to interact with people. Human/Wildlife conflict is the term use to describe the detrimental interactions between wildlife and humans. This problem is particularly rife in Africa and Asia where populations are undergoing rapid expansion and large tracts of natural habitat is converted to agriculture. Conflict between humans and wildlife can include:

1.    The predation of livestock
2.    Consumption of crops
3.    Threats, harm or even human fatalities

All these can have serious affects on people’s perception of wildlife. Obviously if all your crops or livestock are eaten you will try your best to protect them in the future. The hunting and killing of the offending animals is often regarded as the only solution.

Frontier’s Tanzania African Wildlife Conservation Adventure Project has been based near Selous National Park in the Kilombero Valley since 1998. The project has been monitoring mammal movement in the Ruipa corridor, an important safe passage allowing wildlife to migrate. The area has seen a dramatic increase in human population in recent years with the influx of pastoral herders from the north. This has increased the pressure on the habitat and wildlife as well as causing social problems between the indigenous farmers and the herders. The Frontier team has found that two of the most common animals in the corridor are the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and Yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus). Both have the potential to be serious problem species in terms of their interactions with humans.

Baboons are large social omnivorous primate which lives in troops of up to 150 individuals. They are highly intelligent and very successful due to their ability to adapt and find food. This often brings them into conflict with humans as they will raid farms and even homes in search of food. They can become very aggressive, particularly the males which have sabre like canines which are longer than those of a lion. This means that they are viewed simply as pests and in many areas are simply eradicated. In fact baboons are as intelligent as any monkey species and have been shown to lead complex social lives within their troops.

Elephants can be a serious problem as they consume huge amounts of food and water. In the Kilombero Valley the average size of a farm is 4km². This means a hungry herd of elephants can decimate a family’s livelihood in hours. Farmers will usually try and scare them off but frightening a herd of the largest land animal can be problematic. In particular adult bull elephants can cause serious problems as they can be very aggressive and may charge rather than flee. The African elephant is endangered and 80% of its range lies outside national parks. This means that the long term survival of this animal may depend on their interactions with the people they share land.

Both these animals are unique and highly intelligent. There is no easy solution as neither can be easily kept out of farms by fencing (baboons are strong climbers and little will stop a determined elephant).  The only real solution is to educate people about the value of their local wildlife so they can make changes to protect it. Once people know more about their wildlife they are willing to approach the problem from the animals perceptive. For example planting chilli or keeping beehives among crops have been shown to effectively deter elephants.  Frontier volunteers have been running education programs in local villages as well as tracking animal migrations. It is hoped that this work will decrease the degree of human wildlife conflict and people can enjoy the wildlife that lives around them without worrying about its affect on their livelihood.

Read more about the Tanzania African Wildlife Conservation Adventure.