Livestock depredation frequently results in retaliatory killing of carnivores by people. An understanding of the ecological and sociological factors that precipitate this conflict is essential to mitigation. We investigated the seasonality of lion (Panthera leo) depredation incidents in relation to cattle (Bos primigenius) herding patterns in Tsholotsho Communal Land and Ngamo Forest adjacent to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Cattle from 14 villages along the protected area (PA) boundaries were fitted with GPS data loggers (2010–2012), and depredation incidents systematically recorded (2008–2012). More cattle were killed by lions during the wet season (October to May) than during the dry months (June to September). In the wetter months, corresponding to the growing season and the need to protect crops, cattle were herded further from their home enclosures, closer to PA boundaries and into more wooded habitats. By contrast, cattle remained closer to home, further from PAs and were left to graze in fallow fields close to villages in the dry months. Seasonal use of wooded areas distant to villages and close to PA boundaries during the growing season increases vulnerability of cattle to lion depredation. In the dry months, cattle grazing close to villages benefit from the close proximity of people, resulting in a lower incidence of depredation. Approaches to mitigate livestock depredation should focus on improving herd protection during the wet season when cattle graze far from villages. Strategies such as communal herding, more intensive livestock guarding and, where possible, avoidance of heavily wooded habitats close to PAs should be encouraged.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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