The economic costs of wildlife predation on livestock in Gokwe communal land, Zimbabwe



In areas bordering wildlife reserves in Zimbabwe, agro-pastoralists suffer livestock depredation by wild carnivores. However, the economic value of these losses, and therefore the levels of compensation required has never been calculated. Between January 1993 and June 1996 in a 33-km2 area of Gokwe communal land bordering the Sengwa Wildlife Research Area, 241 livestock were killed by wild carnivores. Baboons (Papio ursinus Kerr), lions (Panthera leo Linnaeus) and leopards (P. pardus Linnaeus) were the most serious predators, contributing 52%, 34% and 12% of kills, respectively. Baboons only killed young goats (Capra hircus Linnaeus) and sheep (Ovis aries Linnaeus) by day, while lions and leopards jumped into fortified kraals at night and killed cattle (Bos indicus Linnaeus), donkeys (Equus asinus Linnaeus) and smallstock. In 1995, predators killed 5% of livestock holdings, double that recorded by other African studies. The annual total value of losses depended upon the degree of lion predation on the most valuable species, cattle and donkeys. The average annual loss per livestock-owning household was US$13, or 12% of each household's net annual income. Losses could be reduced by improving kraal defences against lion and leopard predation in the dry season, when attacks were most common.