|Warden Research and Monitoring|
|Implementation of Mauritius Thorn "Live Hedge" as a Tool to Mitigate Primate-Human Conflicts around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park|
|Location: Bwindi/Mgahinga Conservation Area|
|Species: Humans and Primates|
Abstract: Mauritius thorn Caesalpinia decapetala is widely used as a hedge in many places around the world. Its thorny nature makes it an effective hedge plant for use to deter problem animals. As a result, it has spread faster into a variety of new areas by the hand of humans. Experimental trials on the use of Mauritius thorn hedge, especially to alleviate human-wildlife conflicts in areas adjacent to the Protected Areas (PAs) within Uganda has revealed that it can form an effective barrier to wild animals if well established and maintained. Realising this benefit, several stakeholders and particularly the "front line communities" (farmers) to the PAs have taken deliberate effort to invest in planting the "live hedge". This has made Mauritius thorn hedge one of the highly rated strategies for mitigating human-wildlife conflicts around PAs. Establishment of an effective hedge from Mauritius thorn plant requires relevant information on its ecology, propagation and management. A handbook will be developed in response to the current demand for information on the management of Mauritius thorn for establishing an effective hedge to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo previously supported a survey on Crop raiding: Primate-Human conflicts and its implication on conservation in two parishes around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and this project will start to implement some of the recommendations that the study found effective at reducing crop raiding of both primates and other animal species. This is the basis of this intervention project to reduce the cost of crop damage and conserve the wildlife.
Project Report: July 2005
The aim of this project was to establish an effective and successful hedge (Mauritius thorn) and to promote the establishment of unpalatable crops to the crop raiding wildlife in order to mitigate human- wildlife conflicts in the parishes surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP).
The objectives of the project have been accomplished as Mauritius hedge was planted in a 3 km stretch around the park boundary in parish areas subject to intensive crop raiding, including Mukono and Nteko parishes. The communities were excited about this initiative and supported the project by volunteering to plant and care for the hedge along their land that abuts the park boundary. Establishing the hedge was labour intensive. Seeds were collected, nursery beds made, strips were prepared, weeding followed, live support poles were planted and hedges were regularly pruned. Nursery seedlings were transplanted 5m from the park boundary along the farmers' side of the boundary. The hedge will be maintained at a height of 1.5 - 2 meters and a thickness of 75-100cm, which is sufficient to deter medium-sized crop raiders while carefully limiting expansion of the hedge from entering into the park or peoples' land. The implementation of this project has enlightened our understanding and management of problems and issues associated with establishment of the hedge, which has led to the creation of an information Handbook for effective use and maintenance of Mauritius thorn hedge to manage wildlife-human conflict. The Handbook is intended to be a practical working tool to help any one establish an effective hedge for management of conflicts arising from both domestic and wild animals. It contains vital information on general principles and approaches to a successful Problem Animal Management intervention, in the view of a community-based approach to the problem. In particular, it provides relevant information on the ecology, reproduction and management of Mauritius thorn.
It was reported that elephants and buffaloes were observed not to cross through areas where the hedge was well established. Instead, they move along the park boundary until reaching sections where the hedge stops or has large gaps to attempt crossing into public land. These observations suggest that if well established and managed, Mauritius thorn hedge can alleviate human-wildlife conflicts along protected area boundaries. Constant monitoring and evaluation will continue until the communities and park management are satisfied with its effectiveness.
The Community Conservation Warden and agricultural extension officers carried out outreach extension programs on land use that encourage farmers to grow crops that are unpalatable to crop-raiding wildlife. Two workshops and two household visits were conducted in the parishes of Mukono and Nteko parishes around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that covered 138 households. Agricultural extension work was carried out in communities around Mukono and Nteko parishes to encourage buffer crops that are unpalatable to crop raiders. Buffer crops like tea, tobacco, sisal, and chilli pepper integrated with Mauritius thorn are currently viewed as long term solutions to the problem of crop damage. Tea cultivation in the northern sector of BINP has proved successful in reducing crop raiding from baboons, monkeys and bush pigs.
Human-wildlife conflict management measures reduce loss of human health, safety and property, while minimizing any loss of wildlife. This provides an environment where humans and wildlife may coexist harmoniously without either having extreme adverse impact on the other. This benefits the local communities through: improving food security by reducing loss of agricultural production, reducing incidence of damage to life and property by minimizing encounter rates between wild animals and human populations, property and developments, reducing time and labor spent on protecting the property; adult labor can then be used elsewhere to improve family livelihoods. In the case of children, time that would have been spent protecting family property against wildlife can now be devoted to attending school. Additionally, it is expected that there will be improved relationships and collaboration between the adjacent communities to the Park and the Park Authority Management, which is an important attribute of a successful conservation program, reduced costs required to counter effects of unfavorable public attitude and improved public attitude towards conservation.