The final seminar was hosted by Dr. Jackie Abell, a Reader in Psychology at Coventry University and the Director of Research at African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT). The focus of her work is in Zimbabwe and Zambia and the aim is to find a way of allowing the lions (Panthera leo) and the local farmers to coexist without conflict, as if lions and other predators kill cattle, the farmers will often retaliate by killing lions. Along with other factors, this has caused the lion population to drop to an estimated 20,000 individuals throughout Africa, a vast fall from what it once was.

The research began by examining the impact that flashing lights when they are placed around bomas have on deterring lions from attacking the livestock within them.  Over 18 months, the researchers found that the lions avoided the bomas that had the lights. This reduced the amount of livestock that was predated upon and as a result, the number of lions killed in retaliation.

Dr. Jackie noted that the project was only possible due to there being multiple organisations involved- it would not have been possible by a single organisation or discipline due to there being a mixture of skills needed to ensure that the project went ahead. This meant that cooperation was vital to ensure the success of the project.

ALERT has created a video that shows the impact that the lights have had.

In short, the local people have come to view the lions as part of the natural environment and have become more supportive of the conservation efforts. It also improved their lives as they are losing less livestock and as a result, are spending less money replacing lost animals so the overall health of the herds is better.

My thoughts

I found this seminar to be incredibly useful in describing how much conservation relies on multiple disciplines, such as social science, which can be useful in allowing biologists and conservationists understand what the people who are impacted by the issue are feeling and not just look at it from a point of view of a scientist.