Tarangire Carnivore Biodiversity Project (TCBP)
The growth of human population and the associated impacts are a major cause of the current world extinction crisis. Carnivores in particular present an enormous challenge to conservation since this taxa is declining particularly quickly due to habitat loss, hunting for trophy, subsistence or other traditional use, prey depletion, diseases and trade in body parts. Although anthropogenic pressures are known to drive carnivore population declines, these declines are also attributed to inherent biological factors that make carnivores particularly vulnerable. Being at the top of the food chain, means that carnivores occur at relatively low density compared to other taxa. They also need extensive areas and intact habitats to survive which are increasingly becoming scarce and hence compete for space and resources with humans and as a result they are often persecuted. Consequently the conservation of carnivores to date has operated mainly within protected are network.
Nonetheless protected areas alone cannot provide long-term sustenance for carnivore conservation without adjacent unprotected lands e.g. many of them are too small especially for top predators’ and, yet areas adjacent to protected areas often are under pressure from increasing human population and changes in land use practices. Identifying these human activities and assessing their impact on carnivores is fundamental for developing effective conservation strategies. To this end TCBP aims to assess human impacts on carnivore biodiversity in the Tarangire ecosystem by determining the impact of land use type on carnivores and their prey abundance and distribution in the Tarangire National Park, grazing areas and farmlands outside the park. To date TCBP has been able to determine carnivore and prey species distribution and abundance in the park, grazing areas and farmlands outside the park in the Simanjiro area using remote cameras that are positioned along animal trails to take photographs of all the animals that use these trails.
TCBP also aims to assess human-carnivore conflict in Loiborsoit, Lokisale and Emboret villages outside the park. Carnivores come into conflict with humans for a wide variety of reasons. First and foremost, people see large carnivores as a threat to human life because of real and perceived predation on humans. Carnivores also prey on livestock causing considerable economic losses to humans. They also prey on game which humans eat and therefore compete with humans. Furthermore, carnivores can act as reservoirs of zoonotic diseases particularly rabies, again threatening human life and therefore people develop negative attitudes towards carnivores.
Identifying sources of these conflicts and assessing the attitudes of humans to carnivores is key to carnivore conservation. TCBP has conducted 83 interviews with agropastoralists in these villages with a view to assessing the attitudes of agropastoralists to a wide range of carnivores in order to provide information that can guide conservation in the region. In addition to land use and human carnivore conflicts, TCBP is also assessing direct threats to carnivores particularly the use of carnivores in traditional medicine and other cultural practices. Many carnivores are known to have medicinal and other cultural values however such information has not been well documented in pastoral communities. Many pastoralists live adjacent to wildlife areas and hence understanding the use of carnivores in traditional medicine and other practices provides a potential for understanding the value of carnivores to these communities which is important for conservation planning.