Intensive Study Area
Our camp is based in an area that we have designated for intensive study. It presents in microcosm all of the challenges faced by Niassa Reserve as a whole. This 800 km2 spot along the eastern Lugenda River (identified as concession area “L5-South"), is where we have conducted much of our baseline research. It encompasses the Mbamba village (population: 1,500-2,000 people) and borders two sport-hunting concessions on the south bank of the Lugenda River, with ecotourism concessions to the west and east. The area is used extensively for fishing, hunting, honey gathering, and harvesting of thatching grass, medicinal plants, firewood, and other natural materials. We interact on a daily basis with the people using this area. It is here that we test solutions in partnership with the Mbamba community.
While it is impossible to closely monitor individual lions and leopards across all of Niassa, we can accomplish this in our intensive study area. Since 2005 we have gathered abundant information on density, prey, mortality, and movement patterns. We keep track of lions and leopards by individually identifying them and radio-collaring them where possible. This type of long term data is essential. While natural mortality of lions in a formally protected area is generally 6%, in the intensive study area mortality is nearly 30%. We've concluded that this is due to lions being killed in bush-meat snares. This is not sustainable. The population has remained stable since 2005, but only because of immigration of new lions from other areas, not the birth of new cubs. Turnover in pride males is high, and cubs are not reaching adulthood.
This intensive study area is also the site for our planned Field Environmental and Skills Training Centre for Niassa residents. The Ratel Trust has been awarded the tender for this area and is currently negotiating a 25 year lease from the Ministry of Tourism for the management and development of this concession. It will be managed by The Ratel Trust and the Niassa Carnivore Project in legal partnership with the Mbamba community and will be the heart of our conservation activities.