The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP), part of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) was established in 2009 to help develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania’s remote Ruaha landscape. This vast, amazing wilderness supports around 10% of all remaining lions, as well as one of only four cheetah populations in East Africa with >200 adults, the third biggest population of endangered African wild dogs left in the world, and globally important populations of spotted hyaenas and leopards.
Given the dramatic decline of these species – for instance lions have disappeared from over 80% of their range and both cheetahs and African wild dogs from over 90% of theirs – Ruaha is an extremely important area for carnivore conservation. However, even here, they are threatened by many factors including intense conflict with local people, as the Park is unfenced and human-dominated land outside the Park represents a key part of carnivore range. Despite the huge global value of these carnivore populations, local people often see little or no value in their presence, while also suffering significant costs – such as through livestock attacks – from their presence. Unsurprisingly, villagers often kill carnivores in order to try to protect themselves, and this has led to an extremely high level of carnivore killing in this landscape. Furthermore, Ruaha’s crucially important carnivore populations have been very understudied, which hinders the development of effective conservation strategies
The Ruaha Carnivore Project works with partners within Tanzania and across the world to do two things: (i) gather baseline data on carnivore numbers and ecology, in order to help develop appropriate conservation strategies, and (ii) work closely with local communities to effectively reduce human-carnivore conflict. This work will have vital benefits for both people and predators in this globally important landscape. Human-wildlife conflict is one of the most severe and rapidly growing threats facing wildlife today, and has major impacts on local people, so the lessons learned from Ruaha can also help inform conflict mitigation strategies in the many other places where this is a critically important issue.