New Paper: Communities Living with Lions

Desert-adapted lioness near Hoanib riverbed, April 2019.

One of the challenges for communities living alongside lions is to quantify the costs lions impose. There are many programs that account for the monetary costs of livestock losses, but how does one account for the other costs? If the goal is to proactively limit human-lion conflict, rather than simply compensate people after livestock death, conservationists need to innovate ways to account for the day-to-day costs of living with lions, even during the best of circumstances.

A new paper, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Lion Center and WWF-Namibia, looks at the potential opportunity costs of living alongside the desert-adapted lions.

(See full paper here)

In this case, opportunity costs are relevant to the costs imposed upon local communities, when the alternative is not living alongside lions. Even when communities in northwest Namibia do everything properly, lions still consume prey species, which might otherwise feed local families, or be sold. Working with available collar data provided by Desert Lion Conservation and the Namibian Lion Trust, this new paper provides a proof of concept that lion movement data, combined with prey consumption and market value for prey species data, can provide the framework for estimating the costs of living alongside lions, even when lions do not consume livestock.

This new approach is an important part of communicating the costs of living alongside lions. In partnership with WWF-Namibia, the Lion Rangers will be using this, and other similar approaches, to help raise funds to compensate communities for living alongside lions – and thus conserving an important part of Namibia’s natural environment, and Africa’s lion population.

When effectively applied, differentiated payments for ecosystem services (DPES) can help offset certain costs incurred by communities living alongside destructive wildlife. In areas with human-lion conflict (HLC), strategies for addressing the costs of living with large carnivores have primarily focused on compensation payments for lost livestock, but a more complete approach would include the value of prey species consumed by lions that might otherwise have market value for local communities. We introduce an approach for translating the value of prey species consumed by lions from opportunity costs into DPES as one approach for assessing the costs of coexistence with lions. Because lions are unequally distributed across the landscape, efficient DPES require spatially explicit lion movement data. Using data from GPS-collared lions, we link the movements of five lions within six communal conservancies in northwest Namibia to predation rates to estimate the differentiated opportunity costs to each conservancy in the form of wild prey species consumed by lions. Using two population estimates, we show how movement and predation data could be scaled up and suggest applications for addressing other human-wildlife scenarios.

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