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Okavango Wilderness Safaris has partnered with local non-profit, Communities Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS), to help reduce human-wildlife conflict in the Okavango Community Trust (OCT) areas neighbouring Wilderness Vumbura Plains in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

“With a fervent desire to do more for the reduction of human-wildlife conflict in the OCT community areas, as well as with our partnership with the Lion Recovery Fund, we are thrilled to be working with the inspirational team at CLAWS to support their conservation efforts in the region. By offering both a logistical and physical presence, as well as monitoring and additional collaring where needed, we hope to assist CLAWS to refine and further improve their work in mitigating conflict – through fostering co-existence and the expansion of their early warning system”, noted Kim Nixon, Okavango Wilderness Safaris MD.

The Okavango region of Northern Botswana is central to the largest stronghold of lions in Southern Africa and a key region for connectivity among other regional lion populations within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). However, villagers living along the northern edge of the Okavango struggle with livestock depredation by lions. For example, villagers killed approximately 50% of the known lion population here in 2013 through shooting and poisoning.

“CLAWS started our programme in these villages to engage communities in non-lethal activities that could promote co-existence and stop poison use. We developed a two-pronged approach using tradition and technology. Villagers named the lions in their local language and we deployed satellite collars to follow their stories. Real-time locations for the lions are fed into an automated alert system that delivers SMS messages to farmers’ cell phones when the lions are in striking distance of their cattle post. We also established the first Communal Herding Programme in Botswana; forming a grazing committee, hiring herders and providing extensive training. By combining technology and tradition, we are implementing leading solutions for prosperous people and thriving wildlife”, added President and Founder of CLAWS Conservancy, Andrew Stein, PhD.

In turn, Wilderness intends to purchase this rurally farmed beef, which is rangeland- and wildlife-friendly. The reward goes to the rural farmer whose cattle have historically been at risk, thus creating jobs and stimulating economic activity. “We strongly believe that through this collaboration, we’ll be able to achieve great results in not only reducing human-wildlife conflict between people and their livestock, and foster co-existence, which is mirrored in our cluster-farming initiative, but that we can also further reduce our CO2 footprint by purchasing locally”, said Kim.

Wilderness Group Impact Manager, Vince Shacks added, “It’s our aim to be more intentional about our Impact initiatives, and for this, Wilderness makes use of clear outcomes that we’d like to achieve. The CLAWS partnership will do an excellent job of firstly empowering cattle farmers to increase commercial sales of their beef product, and secondly, providing tools and training, which improve co-existence between the farmers and the local lion populations”.

“Through our partnership with CLAWS and upcoming field and research work, we hope to proactively implement interventions to ensure the lion populations’ viability in the northern Okavango and in particular, our Vumbura Concession”, Kim concluded.

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