Czechs helping to protect lions at Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania
A group of Czech specialists have teamed up with conservation workers at the Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania to track and study the movement of lions. The team placed trackable collars on selected lions this past October in order to collect data that will help conservation workers protect them. I spoke with Michal Šťastný from Dvůr Králové Safari Park about the initiative.
“A group of our experts went to Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania to equip lions with radio collars. The data collected from these collars will help to protect the whole species, and also prevent human-wildlife conflict. In Mkomazi, there is a large protected area for wildlife, but like in other areas in Africa and other parts of the world, it’s under huge pressure from humans, and human-wildlife conflict is becoming a more important issue for wildlife protection.
“This was our mission at the beginning of October, now the data is being collected, and a team of experts along with the collaborators in Tanzania collected tissue samples to examine and find out more about the genes of the lions and parasites they might have. So there is loads of data being collected, and it will be super important in protecting the species and the area of the national park.”
Tell me about how collecting this data is going to protect the species?
“Mkomazi is a huge area that is joined to several national parks in Kenya. Therefore, it is difficult for scientists to know how lions use this area – where they walk and how they migrate. It’s crucial information to have in order to protect the species. We need to know where the lions go, where they hunt, what they do, and how the packs are composed to be fully able to understand their needs and find effective ways to protect them.”
What’s the potential risk to the lion population in this area, if this data is not collected?
“Of course lions are apex predators and they are an important species to the whole environment. Lions are a target of poaching, but beside this, there is the danger of human-wildlife conflict, meaning lions attacking people or their livestock, which would cause problems and these situations have already occurred in Mkomazi and other parts of Africa. If we do not know or find ways to protect this species, the whole subpopulation in East Africa could be threatened. We need to collect as much information as we can, to be able to find conclusions on what can be done and should be done to protect the whole species.”
That’s really interesting. So it affects the animal ecosystem, but also people living in the area?
“Definitely, very much. Every single protected area is surrounded by cities, villages, or communities. Some live in peace with these animals, and many areas have realized that if they protect these animals they can generate income from wildlife tourism. On the other hand, living next to these magnificent creatures can pose a lot of problems. So we have to help the people find ways to live with wildlife peacefully, and take some advantage of protecting their neighbours in the wild.”