Article | 09 Mai, 2022

Meet inspiring PANORAMA Solution Providers: Amy Dickman, Alayne Oriol Cotterill, and Catherine Coulson, Lion Landscapes, Tanzania

Amy Dickman and Alayne Oriol Cotterill, Joint CEOs and Catherine Coulson, Director of Fundraising and Communications at Lion Landscapes are joined in this conversation by Cécile Fattebert of the IUCN Protected and Conserved Areas team.

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Villagers celebrating getting healthcare coverage as a result of the community camera-trapping initiative

Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project

PANORAMA Solution: Community camera-trapping: an innovative way of empowering communities through conservation

What is your solution about and what makes it successful in a nutshell? 

The work that was featured on PANORAMA was our community camera-trapping approach. This is an approach which ties benefits to the local communities directly to the presence of having wildlife on their land. A lot of approaches, particularly conflict resolution approaches, tend to focus on reducing the costs of living with wildlife; and increasing local benefits from conservation. Both are very important, but often in that second case, the benefits get an association with the project, rather than specifically with the wildlife. So, we found that the local people would appreciate the benefits coming in, but were still killing the wildlife. There was still a lot of snaring and poisoning. So, we started to do something called community camera trapping, where instead of us monitoring wildlife, the villagers monitored wildlife using camera traps on their land and they got a certain number of points for every animal that was camera-trapped. Those points got translated into additional community benefits, which were focused on areas chosen by the villagers themselves as priorities. It was really exciting to develop this approach with the communities and make sure that the benefits were tied specifically to wildlife presence and therefore incentivize conservation of wildlife on their village land. 

Could you give some sort of timeline, since you started until it was successful? 

It has been a long time coming, partly because in general, there tends to be a sort of iteration in projects, where you are doing the most important things for that moment. We started the project in Southern Tanzania in 2010. We focused primarily on trying to stop the killing. There were lots and lots of killing, of lions in particular. This was done mainly through traditional spearing of lions by warriors, as well as through poisoning, which also killed critically endangered vultures. We focused on both these immediate threats, for example by setting up our Lion Defenders warrior engagement programme, and engaging the communities to discuss the risks of poisoning. 

Then overtime, we realised of course, you can’t just stop the killing – for that to happen long-term, people need to truly benefit from their wildlife. It seems obvious. We were so caught up in just stopping the killing, we hadn’t invested as much in the benefit side of it. Over time, we talked to the communities a lot about which benefits they would most appreciate from conservation, and they highlighted better education for their children, health care and veterinary medicines. All the same things that anymore would prioritize. So then, we worked on all these things. We started developing a school twinning programme called “Kids 4 Cats”, so the schools could get benefits. We invested in health care with the local authorities and doctors. And we also worked with local livestock extension officers to improve access to veterinary medicines. And that was all working, and between about 2011 and 2015, we were focusing on developing those benefit programmes. Meanwhile, we were also doing ecological monitoring using camera-traps, including on village land. 

Over time, we realised that two things were happening. People were appreciating the benefits – they would wave at us, and everybody was happy with us, - but they were associating them with the project, not wildlife, so they were still killing the wildlife. Simultaneously, we were doing this camera trapping, and the camera traps were getting stolen, because the people didn’t feel invested and engaged, or didn’t know the purpose. 

So, we started discussing how to address both these challenges. There’s been quite a long drawn out discussion with the communities over several years now. We said, what about, instead of us doing the camera trapping, you camera-trap on your land? We started with one trial in one village, just to start off the idea, and then quickly we went to a model with four villages, where they were all camera-trapping their wildlife and basically competing against each other. The way it works is that at the end of every three months, the village that has the most points, the most wildlife they captured on their land, got the top spot that was 2,000 $ worth of benefits. The next one would get 1,500 $ worth, the next one 1,000 $, the next one 500. And that was reset again for the next quarter. It really engaged the villagers and it had really driven community benefits. It brought that important extra stream of community benefits into the landscape, tight very closely to wildlife presence. It made wildlife presence, let’s say a wild dogs’ den, something that people actually value to have there, where before it was of course just the cost.  

Very interesting! And the funding that you provide to them, is it from Lion Landscape and your donors? Did you have to fundraise for that? 

Definitely! We have to fundraise for this. We fundraise from multiple donors, who are involved in this. It is a kind of project that is quite attractive to donors, because it’s got both a very clear human development aspect, because of the community benefits aimed at healthcare, education and veterinary health, and also because it directly incentivises conservation. But of course, it does not get around one key concern, which is really that it is still dependent on philanthropy, and on us getting external funding. And then, people will say, well, is that sustainable? In the long-term of course, we can’t have conservation funded entirely by philanthropy. And it isn’t. At the moment, it is just part of it.  

But I think we need to be upfront in recognising that philanthropy and conservation funding is important, and will be for many years to come. Species like lions and elephants are very charismatic internationally, but cause a lot of damage locally, and African governments and communities also have all the costs of setting aside land for conservation. Therefore, we do need the international community, including the public, NGOs and governments, to help pay more for the costs of conservation, which are mainly carried by local people living alongside these species. And this is one small way that this can happen. 

And what about the tourism sector? 

The tourism sector is of course very important, but I think people don’t realize to what extent protected areas in Africa are underfunded. Even with all the current streams of revenues. We did a paper with Peter Lindsey and colleagues a couple of years ago, looking at the mismatch between what was needed to effectively run protected areas with lions, and what was actually coming in through all the different kinds of funding: through photo tourism funding, trophy hunting, state funding and donor funding. With all of those together, there was still a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Over 85% of the parks were underfunded. So, tourism really has an important role to play, because it plays a big part of providing the revenue that is there at the moment. But it can’t, certainly not at the moment, fund all the protected areas adequately. We need new funding streams. And of course, beyond protected areas, tourism plays even less of a role. We need even more innovative approaches beyond protected areas. Because people don’t recognize how important these areas around the national parks are for wildlife. So those areas need to be focused on for conservation as well.  

What benefits have you collected being a finalist of the Technology category of the Pathfinder Award? 

Definitely, this has been really great! We felt very honoured to be a finalist for the award. And it was wonderful just to see that other people thought that we had merit.  

It raised international awareness of novel conservation approaches like the community camera trapping, and has been picked up by other people interested in it. For example, it became the first case study in a series of conflict and coexistence produced by the IUCN Human Wildlife Conflict Task Force (now Specialist Group). It’s great to see these task forces using this approach of case studies. People can look at one example of an approach and even though we are using it for large carnivores in Africa, they might realise it has some applicability for very different species and landscapes. Maybe it could be useful for pangolins, for wolves in North America, who knows? Ultimately, it enables more people to hear about it, because not that many people read our newsletter, so it’s really great to have that bigger platform. It elevates it where other people have heard about it. 

Some of our colleagues in Mozambique have tried it now, in Niassa Reserve. And it was great, people were really positive about it, because you co-develop the solution with the communities, so you can make it very site-specific. And that’s really a critical part of it. You’re not coming with some cookie-cutter approach, taking what we’ve done and just replicating it exactly in another place. The whole process of it is to discuss with the communities. How many points should a dik-dik have? How many points should a lion get? This starts discussion about people’s thoughts on which animals have most value, and which have most costs locally. And that’s such an important discussion to have locally, that I think it is part of the success. It is not endlessly successful: there are plenty of bumps and costs, and nothing is the perfect solution. But, I think it opens a dialogue there that is really important, and that maybe we don’t have enough as conservationists with local communities. 

What is your vision for the Ruaha National Park and surrounding areas?

So to be clear, we implemented the camera-trapping on village land outside the Ruaha National Park. We also implemented it in some of these other landscapes we work on as Lion Landscapes and our colleagues have implemented it elsewhere, like in Niassa, which is wonderful.  

I think our vision for Ruaha and all these landscapes we’re working in, is to have thriving landscapes, which have high populations of large carnivores, but importantly, where the presence of these large carnivores delivers a real gain for people, both at the national level, for the national government, and the local people, who are bearing the costs of living alongside these animals.  

Conservation has had a real journey, from originally a focus on protected areas taking very much the fortress approach, where people were kept out, for the benefits really of rich tourists. And now, we’re seeing a big move, and thank goodness for it, towards a consideration of how we can use wildlife conservation and protected areas, as vehicles for economic development and, for social justice, to make sure they are not exclusive and damaging to local communities, but rather that conservation becomes something that can uplift the communities, where their rights are respected and their voices count, all these things. It’s amazing that we have these incredible biodiversity-rich landscapes on the planet, but these places need to be more than just delivering for conservation. They have to deliver for people. And this approach is just a small way, a small tool that we can help make that happen. 

And regarding the conflicts between people and wildlife, are there ways to mitigate or maybe avoid these costs? 

Definitely! And the first task, when you go into an area with lots of conflict, it is to understand how to reduce the damage that is happening right now. Because that’s really the immediate challenge for the people who are living there. And there are many ways we can do this. For example, around Ruaha, two-third of the attacks were happening in poorly constructed livestock enclosures, so reinforcing livestock enclosures was an important part of that. It’s just done with simple diamond mesh wire. And that has proved really effective. Attacks in those enclosures have been reduced by 95%, compared to before they were reinforced. And interestingly, reinforcing an enclosure also has a protective effect on their neighbours’ enclosures too. We don’t quite know why, but it’s interesting to see that too.  

We do this kind of conflict mitigation in all our Lion Landscapes site, often using what we call “Co-existence Co-ops’”. These are where we really train and engage with local people, to make sure that their use and ability to tackle conflict themselves is really strengthened, whether that’s by better reinforcing enclosures, using guarding dogs, or whatever is locally appropriate. We try to make sure we understand the dynamics of the conflict, why is it occurring and, where the damage is happening. Then we look at which approaches we can learn from community members or other people, so that we can work together with the community to implement and expand those approaches in a way that works for them. 

What messages, needs, recommendations would you like to share with the conservation and policy actors evolving in the global arena? 

I would love to see conservation so much more centrally discussed, and not seen as an add-on, that we can throw a tiny bit of money at it. I think, there’s growing recognition, that we cannot have thriving human populations without having thriving nature. We need biodiversity. Biodiversity underpins everything that we have on the planet. There’s been this huge disconnect of course, between the endless chase for economic growth that often sacrifices natural ecosystems and local rights. We see a major issue here, and I think we need a proper rethink of what is happening. But I would say to the global decision-makers that we need far more funding, we need novel streams of biodiversity funding, and not relying only on the same old systems we’ve had for decades, such as tourism or other user dependent revenue. Through Covid in particular, we’ve seen how fragile those user based revenue streams really are. And I think we need to move to a model where we recognize that, particularly the richer countries in the world, got to be rich by exploiting people and nature in places far away. And we need to change that around, so that people pay for the impacts that they’re having now, by really investing in nature and in the communities that still live with nature.  

There are many ways of doing that. We’re looking more and more at biodiversity credits, like carbon credits, making sure that the places that are still the ones that are causing the most biodiversity loss, like the UK or the US, are using their wealth in a manner that helps secure biodiversity and help lift up people. We have to be much more open to the fact that it is going to cost money, but it’s going to be so cost efficient in the long-term. We have to do it! If we don’t do it now, the cost will go up and up and up, and we will spend billions on using technology to try to mitigate the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, and will still see major negative impacts. Instead, we should actually deal with the underlying problems, and we have to do it much more centrally and realize that we need to speed up now and not put it off endlessly for decades to come. We simply don’t have the time. We need to do more, and we need to do it now.  

Yes, this is what we come across a lot here at the global level, but it is so slow! We try to engage also the private sector to try to find innovative ways to fund and support conservation, because as you said, biodiversity is what underpins our lives. But it’s true that the timeline is not aligned and the risk if you invest in conservation makes them hesitant to really going on that path. So, we need to find other organisations that somehow bear the risk. But I really think that the people working on the ground directly have ideas on how to do it, and your voice should be valued in the terms of proposing ways or at least directions where we could go.  

Yes definitely. For example, carbon credits are something that even ten years ago, we didn’t think would have such a market, that they would be taken up so broadly. Now it’s really mainstream. And I know there are many issues and many people who don’t like the model. But still, it’s obviously working in terms of the fact that it’s now central, and big companies are thinking about carbon offset. This has become an emerging market and one that big corporations, the finance sectors etc, so they become involved.  

The slight fear that we have at Lion Landscapes is that, if we focus financing models exclusively on the carbon  market, there is a risk that we could have, empty forests, with all the biodiversity snared out or poisoned. The biodiversity needs to be part of considering things like carbon credits. So now, we are having discussions about how to make biodiversity a central part of those kinds of offsets, and make sure that companies and governments feel they have a real responsibility to pay for this. And we do think there will be an emerging market again, in trying to have these biodiversity credits and novel forms of biodiversity finance.  

Lion Landscapes is actively looking at this, at everything from the local level, where we’re looking at things like Lion Friendly Livestock using economic markets to incentivize conservation, right up to the global level, where we try to talk to decision-makers and policy makers about making biodiversity central in this way that makes sense to the people. They tend to think about markets and financing mechanisms, so for now. We have to be talking that language too, even though we’d ultimately like to see a world where economic growth is not used as the key metric. But at the moment, in the short-term scale that we have, this is the driver of a lot of actions, decisions and policies. So, it’s better to be part of those discussions and try to see how to make biodiversity value translated into that existing structure. So, we’ve just started doing that and there’s a big movement towards it currently. 

And do you participate in those discussions in Zambia, for example?  

We talk about it a lot with various partners. In Zambia, Lion Landscapes has worked with BioCarbon partners to help develop an approach called Lion Carbon. That is a premium carbon offsetting with additional biodiversity monitoring conservation, in areas important for lions and lots of other wildlife, so that we don’t end up with empty forests.  

We are now looking at other financial initiatives, mainly in Kenya at the moment, which could have a lot of translated value to other landscapes. For example, rangelands are critically important for both people and for large carnivores, but often they clash. How do you make the market more favourable for people who are farming in a way that maintains biodiversity? We are looking at ways of improving the value chain and making it more efficient, so that people who engage in this process and produce “Lion Friendly Livestock” are rewarded for operating in a more biodiversity friendly way. 

We haven’t talked a lot to policy-makers at the moment, as most of our work has been very locally focused, but we want to very much collaborate with everyone else who has these discussions. We have some skills to bring: we can bring some knowledge of the realities of conflicts and how to measure biodiversity, for example. But what we lack of course, is the policy knowledge, we lack the business and economic knowledge, so we’re looking to see how we can build these networks with people. Together we can bring all our strengths and come up with, as you say, maybe better solutions. There might be no perfect solutions, but with one more brick in the wall, maybe we can build this defence against this horrible loss that we’re looking at the future. None of us wants our children to grow up in a world that has lost virtually all its biodiversity. No one wants that. So, if we have that shared commitment for conservation, that shared passion for a better future, then we have to bring all our strengths together and see how can we make this happen. And as you say, to make it happen far more quickly than how it is happening now.  

So, in order for you to bring the different actors together, you’d need to kind of organise this kind of community or network, a think tank or something? 

Definitely! We’d love to have more of a think tank. Particularly some biodiversity finance, and that can be a very broad church. We talked about this with the community camera-trapping. This is a very local way of translating that global value down to that local level. We need these kinds of agreements, not only to be big internationally, but how do they get translated down so they engage the very people laying out the snares or the poison, or cutting down the natural habitat … Because that’s where the real actions happen. As you know, it needs to be locally driven, but it needs to be globally, nationally and internationally embedded in a framework that makes sense. You don’t have these two not talking to each other, which is what I think happens quite a lot. But more and more, this cross-sectoral discussion is really important.  

Is there anything you’d like to ask or add as a final word? 

I think it’s great that this kind of showcasing is happening. I just want to ask: have you seen particular benefits come out of showcasing these projects? Have you seen anything beneficial coming out of the PANORAMA programme at your end?  

For us it is not always easy to monitor the impacts, because for example we don’t know if people looking through the platform will actually contact the Solution Provider. But, on one end, we try to make PANORAMA visible and make it the place to post successes. We think it’s important to learn from what works and what has been proven. We also use the solutions in policy work, to show concrete examples from the ground to different audiences. It can be policy-makers of a country, or continent or it depends. We really try to be in the middle and to transfer that knowledge when and where it makes sense, and we also hope that practitioners look into the available portfolio. Otherwise we also try to activate interactions, communities of practice, or people who can benefit from each other in particular projects. We would like to mainstream this approach of “match-making” interactions between practitioners. Because if you’re working on the ground, you’re busy, you come across your own network but you won’t have really much time, right, to go to a thousand websites to look for information, that you may not find in the end. That’s what we try to do with the PANORAMA solutions, which are like shop windows, where you can easily pick the elements, understand what it is about and maybe evaluate if it can help you in your own work.  

Exactly, I think it is very useful, you need that “match-making” approach where you can literally provide your details, like I’m from that area in the world and am struggling with a conflict, or I’m looking for an approach that might add value. Even if a case study is not immediately relevant to your own situation, it might be to somebody else’s, and then you discuss with people and that’s of course how things get developed. But I think it is so important that these communities are increasingly made up from the people most affected. I know I’m a white Westerner talking about this, and external voices are still often dominant. We want that less and less. How to engage the people most affected, so they can talk about and say why it works and why it doesn’t work, so they can talk to policy-makers. Because their voices are so much more important in these kinds of things. So hopefully, there’ll be another stepping stone towards broadening these kinds of discussions, bringing in these kinds of communities, and hopefully going beyond English as well, that is obviously a barrier to many.   

We had people reach out to us and we’ve seen some people actually implementing our approach in their landscapes. And you can learn then, because it may work in one landscape, but it may not in another. So, I think by understanding what was different there, you get a stronger idea of where these different approaches are applicable to. Therefore, when someone new is coming to the match-making tool, you’ll have a better idea of whether that place is more suitable for this or that strategy. So, I think, it is always that discussion, that networking and trialling different approaches, that we need much more of, not everyone just doing what they do in their specific sites, because then you don’t learn that much. 

We find site visits the most important way of doing that. We’ve got people at the moment from our Ruaha site, who are in Kenya at the moment, helping implement the community camera-trapping in some of the Kenyan sites. It is so much better to go on a site visit, sit there, see the reality, to brainstorm. For example, we’ve sent our staff to learn from the Trans Kalahai Predator Programme, about their work, particularly their mobile enclosures. They use canvas enclosure rather than wire, and then move them around. It was clear that it was really effective in protecting not only the livestock but it was also very effective in fertilizing the crop fields they were on, and so the maize was growing a lot better. It was good for both protecting cattle and food security. We sent a group there to learn from them and when they came back we started to implement them in our landscape sites. And we can see impacts already, that it increases the yield so it addresses food security as well as reducing a conservation threat. 

I think the funders could look into funding some of those visits, to stay a week, really sit there and think about it. It opens your mind to new possibilities and help share that knowledge across sites.