The majority of lion attacks happen in the fields during the wet season, not in the bush as one might expect. During the wet season lion prey is dispersed away from the rivers and long grass makes it difficult for lions to hunt. Warthogs, bush pigs, and other prey animals come into the farmers’ fields to feed on crops and are major pests. This concentration of potential prey attracts lions into villager fields where they come into contact with farmers tending and defending their crops.
Some of Niassa’s farmers use traditional bamboo or log fences to keep bushpigs and warthogs out of the fields. These are very effective in the short term, but last only one year as the bamboo rots and is eaten by termites. As an alternative, we are testing “living fences,” hedges grown from cuttings of Commiphora africana, a thorny native plant (African myrrh) that is locally called Pao piku. This plant is being used by the African People and Wildlife Fund, to construct “living walls” around cattle bomas in Tanzania to reduce lion attacks.
Once established, these “living fences” are almost impenetrable, and we hope they will provide long-term, low-maintenance protection from carnivores in Niassa. It takes several growing seasons for the hedges to develop into dense living barriers, but ongoing maintenance is simple, consisting mostly of pruning the tops of the upward-growing shoots to encourage side growth. In partnership with Mbamba village we planted the first two trial fences in 2008. We are now working with traditional leaders and Reserve management to scale up living fence installations across villages in Niassa. See our Annual reports for more details.