Since 1990, lions in Tanzania have entered villages and attacked more than 1,000 people without being provoked. That’s a sharp increase over the past. This new behavior, prompted by the encroachment of civilization onto lion territory, is threatening lion conservation in Tanzania, home to the largest lion population in Africa. The conflict has sparked research to understand the factors driving lion attacks on humans. For her doctoral dissertation, recent graduate student Hadas Kushnir examined the problem from ecological and human perspectives at multiple scales. Working in the two districts with the highest number of lion attacks, Rufiji and Lindi, her research aimed to:
- Identify human, ecological, and landscape-level risk factors for lion attacks,
- Determine how people currently react to attacks and what methods they believe could help mitigate attacks, and
- Understand how people perceive attacks and how these perceptions align with reality.
Ongoing work in Tanzania
Hadas Kushnir and assistant Harunnah Lyimo are working in the Rufiji district near Selous Game Reserve. Selous is the largest protected area in Africa and home to a thriving lion population, making it critically important for lion conservation. Hadas’ previous research identified the presence and abundance of bush pigs as an important risk factor for lion attacks. Bush pigs, a native wild pig species and a nocturnal crop pest, create the need for people to sleep in their agricultural fields, but they also draw lions into human dominated areas where they are one of the few wild prey species. In order to reduce lion attacks in Rufiji and throughout Tanzania, these researchers are developing methods to keep bush pigs out of agricultural fields, to keep people safely inside their homes and lions at a distance from human activity. They are also educating communities about how they can make their daily lives safer through methods like building fences that enclose their outdoor toilet and cooking area.
Image: Map of Tanzania with the number of attacks per district coded. Rufiji and Lindi districts are in bold.