Predators sometimes cause communities harm not only through injury to humans but through killing their livestock.

Government spends millions of Pula to compensate victims of predator attacks, and there are many cases of predator human persecution, where people act on risks posed to human life and livestock, as well as habitat loss and loss of natural prey from game meat and poaching.

Community involvement in conservation in Botswana is low even among communities in areas that have a strong presence of wildlife.


Andrew Stein, founder and director of CLAWS Botswana, a community-based lion conservation programme in the Seronga area along the northern boundary of the Okavango, demystified the notion that locals in wildlife-dense areas kill animals mindlessly, saying that they only take such desperate measures when their lives or their livestock are at risk.

"Wildlife conservation will only succeed if locals are benefiting or at least not harmed in the process. So, for example, if lions are not killing people's cattle then they are less likely to want to kill lions.

“It is very difficult to have people helping to conserve lions, but many people are interested in receiving alerts when lions are approaching - over 120 participants currently."

He said that there is significant interest in joining their communal herding programme. "So far we have nearly 700 cattle from 30 owners participating from Eretsha Village- representing 50 per cent of the village herd. Now, these people likely would say that they joined the programme for the health benefits for their cattle - vaccinations, treatments for infections, feeding of supplements, better market access for their beef and assistance with protection against predators.

“If they are participants they must agree not to kill lions, so in a way their participation is indirectly conserving lions and improving rangelands for wildlife. Thus far poisoning has stopped completely, the lion population is at pre-poisoning levels and the communities have tools to address conflict."

Stein started the programme in response to devastating poisoning events that targeted lions in 2013 and eradicated 50 per cent of the regional lion population in that single year.

"We began our outreach campaign, not to prosecute those that illegally used poison, but to sympathise with people who were losing their livestock to the point where they felt desperate to kill all lions indiscriminately," he said.

Stein explained that they put satellite tracking collars on the lions and had the villagers give the lions local names to foster a connection.

"The collars transmit the locations of the lions to a cloud-based formula that calculates the distance from the lions to each of the villages, homesteads and cattle posts, then delivers an SMS to anyone that the lion is approaching.

“Once the warning is received the respondent can take preventative actions like kraaling their cattle and building small fires to deter lions from attacking the cattle," he said.

They have also started the first communal herding programme in Botswana, through which they have formed a community committee to hire local herders, who are trained in basic veterinary care for treating infections, wounds and vaccinations.

The cattle are put in a predator proof kraal at night that is moved weekly to foster rotational grazing to restore rangelands and reduce overgrazing.