Conflicts between large carnivores and livestock have been occurring since animals were first domesticated. Too often the solution to such conflicts is the eradication of the perpetrator - usually a predator. Due to small and large scale government eradication programs, many large carnivore species have been drastically reduced or extirpated from their historic range. In northern Botswana, there are still five large carnivore species moving between protected and livestock areas where conflicts occur. With many developments in our understanding of human-wildlife conflict, we have an opportunity in northern Botswana to develop a protocol for addressing these conflicts before populations decline beyond recovery. With support from the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, and a grant from National Geographic's Big Cat Initiative, we have developed a pilot program for training farmers in non-lethal livestock protection techniques and introducing a small-scale insurance scheme.
In January 2010, we began an outreach program to the Shorobe community, which is located south of the veterinary cordon fence. Shorobe was the natural choice for our conflict study since we have a long-standing relationship with the residents and many of our study animals venture south of the fence. Most of the residents of Shorobe raise livestock as part of their subsistence lifestyle, some also raise crops and most have an opinion about area wildlife. After several meetings with the Shorobe chief, community leaders and the department of wildlife, we visited the 73 cattle posts to introduce our new program and discuss which issues posed the biggest problem for their livestock production. We have taken these concerns and we are developing a 2-day workshop, taking place in May, integrating presentations on herd health, rangeland management, livestock protection and compensation. We will discuss proven techniques that help farmers protect their livestock from large predators in other areas of East and southern Africa including kraal construction, herding techniques and effective guard animals. At this workshop we will introduce our new livestock insurance program.
Our livestock insurance program is designed to encourage farmers to employ these livestock protection techniques to reduce conflict. Unlike the current ineffective compensation program, we plan to facilitate the program as a mutual insurance scheme with investment by the participants and claims confirmed or denied by community members. We will first collect a nominal fee that is subsidized by independent funding sources. This money will be placed into a fund that is supervised by our program and distributed to farmers with losses to large carnivores employing these techniques. When legitimate conflicts occur, a member of our research team and a community outreach assistant will investigate the incident. Since community members will invest in the program, and they are aware of the techniques employed by their neighbors, we hope to work with the community to substantiate claims.