Research Project: Impacts of local human communities on the abundance of African wildlife
Melako Community Conservancy covers 45,000 hectares of arid rangelands and savannah in Northern Kenya, and supports approximately 6,000 people. It is also home to the critically endangered Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi) and other arid species such as the African Elephant, Beisa Oryx, Yellow Baboon, cheetah and giraffe.
Traditionally, the Rendille people of Melako rely on livestock for food, trade and income. A balance between livestock and wildlife numbers is essential for the health of the Rangelands. However, ongoing drought and human conflict over livestock has increased demand for grazing and water resources.
Zoos Victoria partners with the Melako Conservancy to support community-run programs that aim to help people live in balance with wildlife through local development and sustainable use of natural resources. Activities include:
- Wildlife monitoring, security and anti-poaching patrols by scouts
- Engaging with the Melako community to gauge the attitudes towards, and relationship with, a range of wildlife species
- Beads for Wildlife initiative supporting traditional beadwork made by the Melako women as a sustainable alternative livelihood
- Kicking Goals for Wildlife campaign to establish a soccer program which encourages sustainable cultural expression over conflict-driven activities for warriors, thus reducing threats to local wildlife.
We expect one indicator of our program's success to be an increase in the abundance of wildlife and a decrease in their vigilance and flight distance towards people.
This will indicate that animals are habituated to people and do not feel threatened by their presence. To measure the impact of our activities on local wildlife a biodiversity survey program is being conducted.
- To understand the difference in abundance and vigilance towards people (i.e. flight distance) in five key wildlife species (Grevy’s Zebra, giraffe, Oryx, Gerenuk and Dik Dik) in areas that have relatively high use by people versus areas that have low use
- To track changes in the abundance of these species and their vigilance response to people as program activities evolve.
- Sixteen transects (each 9km long) at eight different sites were surveyed by trained scouts in areas with both high and low levels of human use to quantitatively measure abundance and behaviour of selected species
- These transects will be repeated over numerous intervals as the Melako program activities progress to assess resulting changes in abundance and behaviour of these species
- Application of learnings from Zoos Victoria's local community conservation campaigns, implementing a philosophy of 'Connect, Understand, Act' to inspire behaviour change.
Outcomes so far...
Beads for Wildlife
- Outcomes for Wildlife:
- As income form beadwork sales grow, there has been a decline in reliance on grazing livestock as an income source which means less competition with wildlife for food.
- Social Outcomes:
- 900 women are now engaged in making beadwork products which has resulted in 900 families are receiving regular income
- Very positive feedback from women who now have more money to spend on food, education costs for their children, etc. Zoos Victoria is working with partners to establish measurable goals.
Kicking Goals for Wildlife
- Outcomes for Wildlife:
- Reduction in conflict between warriors, leading to a reduction in killing wildlife particularly Gunthers dik dik and Gerenuk
- Reduced flight distance in indicator species (most noticeably Grevy’s Zebra)
- Increased tolerance of wildlife such as Grevys Zebra at water points.
- Personal impacts on warrior participants include increased self-confidence, willingness to participate in team work, discipline and interpersonal communication skills, maintaining fitness
- Warriors report enjoying playing soccer when not occupied with key livelihood activities
- Small-business development through the establishment of warrior-owned and operated cafes
- Enthusiasm to embrace more commonly-used languages, such as Swahili and English
- Willingness to engage in peace talks with rival tribes
- The teams have provided a platform for group discussions around wider issues that face warriors.
Program co-ordinator: Chris Banks (Zoos Victoria)
Participating organisations: Zoos Victoria; Melako Community Conservancy; Northern Rangelands Trust; The University of Melbourne; One World Futbol