Post doctoral researcher, University of California, Davis
Research: Sukuma Lion-Killing in Western Tanzania: The Manipulation of Cultural Tradition and its Implications for Lion Conservation and Conflict Mitigation
Abstract: Lion populations throughout their range are declining due to killing by local people. The Katavi-Rukwa Ecosystem (KRE) in western Tanzania supports one of the world's 6 largest lion populations and is a target of Sukuma migration. The Sukuma are energetic agro-pastoralists and killing a lion represents an act of great bravery which young Sukuma men advertise through a "lion-dance" -- they are rewarded with gifts of cattle. Traditionally lion killing occurred in response to livestock loss, but this practice is changing; lions are now being actively sought out and killed. Through interviews with individual Sukuma men and households, this project will quantitatively assess the extent and determinants of this cultural shift, as well as attitudes and responses to such 'cheating' of a traditional system. Results will directly inform mitigation strategies through a program of environmental education (school trips into the national park) and public disclosure, capitalizing on strong internal institutions of self-regulation.