LET THERE BE LIGHT …
(Posted 18th April 2016)
Animal conservation issues have been ongoing in Africa for decades. One of the most difficult issues to tackle are those involving human/wildlife conflict.
In rural villages surrounding conservation areas, wild animals and farmers, or those who are raising livestock, are often attempting to occupy the same space with very different purposes.
While it has appeared on the radar of some conservation groups, few are doing anything about it. As a consequence, humans, farm animals and wildlife are all paying a terrible price.
Who is Patti Vaughn
While I make my home in Pennsylvania, I spend several months of the year in Tanzania as a wildlife photographer. I became involved with Philipo Ormorijei, a local guide. He lives in the Maasai village of Nainokanoka, in the Ngorongoro highlands of Tanzania just outside Serengeti National Park.
Philipo’s village was dealing with a leopard who was killing calves and goats. They were about to call in the Morani (warriors) to hunt and kill the predator. I convinced him to wait while I contacted a few friends and located a man in Kenya who makes solar/strobe lights. We arrived in Nainokanoka the first week of December 2014 with four types of lights which we hung around the bomas where their livestock are kept.
In the meantime, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Association had also brought in a large box trap at the end of November. The leopard ignored it until the night the lights went up. She was hungry, and afraid of the lights, so she tried the trap. The leopard was successfully relocated and the Tanzania Lion Illumination Project was born.
Relocation – a better option than hunting and killing.
Since December 2014, the Tanzania Lion Illumination Project (TLIP) has installed lights on 69 bomas in northern Tanzania, the majority of them in Tarangire National Park and in Ololosokwan village, which lies outside Serengeti National Park, but to the north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The concept is as simple as it sounds: The lights flash about twice a second, from dusk until dawn, disorienting predators like leopards and lions, even hyenas and wild dogs, scaring them away from livestock pens. Most often predator animals won’t even bother to approach the boma at all.
The lights can be seen for miles, giving the predators the impression that people are moving around with torches or flashlights. The lights are proving extremely popular with several great benefits.
It’s such a simple solution, in fact, that we can anticipate a time when the TLIP team won’t even have to install the lights ourselves. We are currently working on a prototype that when manufactured, can actually be sold in shops and installed by boma owners themselves, providing we can keep the cost down.
The lights are solar-powered, using a battery to store energy collected during the day and expended at night. TLIP’s technical consultant, Michael Mbithi, a Kenyan, with over a decade of experience in wildlife management and conservation, is always looking for a better system. Our goal is to develop lights that are self-contained with no wires between them.
• Livestock are left alone
• No retaliation against the predators thereby saving many declining animal populations
• The Maasai love the lights because they can see what’s happening outside, they can see who’s coming to visit and watch their children playing without worry
• Having lights protecting your boma has become a status symbol in some areas
Livestock is safer
Families can feel safer
And Best of All
Lions, Leopards & Cheetahs Can Live Safer
THE TLIP TEAM
They call me Shangasi which means Auntie in the local language
and Michael Mbithi Our resource & technical consultant
Philipo – Interpreter & Ambassador
and Elisante – Driver & Guide
We already have a need to install lights for 62 more bomas in the Tarangire area and near Ololosokwan, and Ruaha but things could be a lot busier very soon. A local official has requested that 600 bomas be provided lights.
The logistics can be very challenging, Ololosokwan in particular does not have good roads — and many of the Maasai don’t even live near roads. But with the results we have seen from such a relatively inexpensive, simple, and scaleable solution to human-wildlife conflict, we know that it’s worth the effort.
TLIP has been self-funding with the help of donations for several years – paying our own expenses, transportation and the cost of solar strobe lights.
Our needs are basic:
• A safari vehicle (at present we are renting one)
• Funding to research and develop wireless lights
• Funding with the hope to expand into other African nations as well as other countries experiencing similar problems with HWC who are willing to install test projects. So any form of material or financial assistance will be very much appreciated and go a long way to ensure lasting success of the project.
Our track record over almost 4 years has been nearly 100% in keeping predatory animals, families and livestock safe and living together in peaceful coexistence. We have also found that farm fields surrounded by our lights have been successful in keeping elephants from uprooting vegetables and other crops and keeping those populations safe as well.
Our solution sounds simple and it is. It is also economical at a cost of about $500 per boma including all travel and equipment expenses. While we cannot claim to stop trophy hunting or poaching, we can help to avoid problems stemming from HWC and is providing that path to peaceful coexistence that benefits all parties.
P.O. Box 207 – Berwick, PA 18603 – + 1 570-233-1406
501C3 Non-Profit EIN #47-3562921
Your donation can make the difference, for the Maasai, for their lifestock and for the survival of Tanzania’s predator populations.