In October and December 2014 we kicked off the first of a series of anti-poisoning events. The goal of the campaigns was twofold – firstly, to identify the potential poisons people are using and secondly we used song and dance to discourage people from using poison to kill predators and to advise them on alternative avenues to resolve the conflicts.
Our target group was the community members around the Maasai Mara ecosystem who play a key role in ensuring whether or not predators thrive or decline both inside and outside protected areas. The Maasai pastoralists here no longer participate in the cultural practice of lion killing as a rite of passage; rather they do so in response to depredation incidences. Whilst no poisoning cases have as yet been reported for cheetahs, there have several poisoning incidences involving lions, spotted hyaenas, vultures and even domestic dogs.
To determine the distribution and availability of potential poisons, we visited various shops in 10 centres around the Mara. Of the 111 shops visited, pesticides for agriculture and livestock purposes were sold in all of the 24 Agro-vet shops that were visited. The cost of pesticides varied from 80Ksh – 1250Ksh per 100grams, depending on the manufacturer. The results indicate that potentially deadly poisons are affordable and readily available.
We teamed up with the Mara Lion Project to raise awareness about the severity of using poison to kill predators and to create a stage for people to discuss issues of livestock depredation. Since the literacy levels in these areas are low it was important to use an effective medium to convey the message. We therefore worked together with the Buffalo Dancers and used songs, dances, choral recitals, role plays and speeches, all in Maa, to convey the message. The Buffalo Dancers are a registered performing arts group who bring Maasai cultural and environmental concepts to a wide variety of audiences through entertaining performances. Together with the projects community team, the Buffalo Dancers created a unique performance about the use of poison.
The team performed at seven different locations to address the effects of poison as a response tool to human wildlife conflicts. The sites included markets, community meetings (barazas), schools and churches. We selected five market venues (based on Market days) and organized two community barazas where the message was passed to a wider audience.
The campaign was a success, not only because we covered the areas we intended to but because there was an overall positive response to the campaign. Both campaigns have kindly been sponsored by the Basecamp Foundation.