Living with lions

Oct 24, 2007

There are many historical stories of shepherds and travellers encountering lions, for example the Old Testament contains dozens of tales about attacks on flocks and people by these fierce predators.

Lions have now disappeared from most of their former range, but for livestock owners around the Waza National Park, Cameroon, living with lions is a daily reality. Although loss of human life is rarely reported, lion predation can cost the herders close to 1000 US$ per family each year.

Scientists from the Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University and the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, investigated the factors that contributed to these losses and why pastoralists continued to graze their herds close to the lion’s hunting grounds, which has recently been published in the African Journal of Ecology.

The team found that people living closer to the Waza National Park enjoy better access to pastures and water points, but bear the heaviest losses. These herdsmen said that the benefits of improved grazing and water outweigh the cost of lion kills.

Further from the park, depredation decreases, but during the wet season, when water is abundant and lush vegetation offers hiding places, lions wander off and take livestock at larger distances. The research also showed that having cattle increases the risk of losing goats or sheep to lions, probably because sheep and goats graze with the cows further away from the villages and in larger numbers, which makes it easier for lions to approach livestock unnoticed. Herdsmen even claimed that lions follow nomadic herds during the wet season far outside the park, and during this period these lions also raid sedentary livestock of villages they pass.

Surprisingly, herdsmen who try to chase the lions away when attacked reported larger losses, probably because the confusion created scatters the herds, and lions benefit from this.

One day around noon, while interviewing some villagers, two researchers were called by some excited herdsmen, who reported an attack by lions. The group headed to the scene just outside of the village, only about a kilometre from where the interview was taking place, and found three dead sheep and a calf, with clear bite marks in their necks. One of the herdsmen explained:

“We tried to chase away the lions, but they weren’t impressed and only moved a bit further away from us, where they grabbed another sheep. That’s how they do it, they just kill. They’ve taken one sheep with them, but the calf and the other three sheep were killed for nothing. We can’t eat the meat, as Muslim traditions require animals to be killed by a Muslim”

The research team recommended that herding methods could be changed in order to decrease the livestock losses, such as by having protective thorn enclosures, called bomas, or more herdsmen, as dogs for guarding livestock are not a suitable alternative in this Islamic part of Cameroon. Lion predation is a common phenomenon in the area, and people have accommodated these violent encounters in their day-to-day life, and apparently make a trade-off between the extra benefits of living closer to the national park, and the increased risk of losing animals to lions.

Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Explore further: Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Chief Yahoo' David Filo returns to board

11 minutes ago

Yahoo announced the nomination of three new board members, including company co-founder David Filo, who earned the nickname and formal job title of "Chief Yahoo."

Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work

21 minutes ago

Yahoo's recently fired chief operating officer, Henrique de Castro, left the Internet company with a severance package of $58 million even though he lasted just 15 months on the job.

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

34 minutes ago

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

7 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

8 hours ago

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

3 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...