Size, shape and maintenance matter: A critical appraisal of a global carnivore conflict mitigation strategy - Livestock protection kraals in northern Botswana

17 September 2018

Fortified kraals are predator-proof enclosures designed to protect livestock at night. Globally, they show great promise in reducing depredation by carnivores, thus promoting co-existence with people. Their efficacy depends on effectiveness, durability, regular use, owner satisfaction, cost-efficiency, and design. We monitored 32 fortified kraals for 18 months in a high conflict area in northern Botswana (n=427 kraal months) where lions (Panthera leo) frequently kill cattle. Monthly kraal use was 60% and was significantly influenced by kraal type, age, and shape. When used and maintained, kraals stopped livestock depredation. Due to poor maintenance, however, kraal age had a significant, negative influence on kraal use and effectiveness, compromising sustainability and cost-effectiveness. Fortified kraals built by a non-governmental organisation cost US$1322.36 per unit (n=20) and mitigated a mean annual loss of $187.32. This suggests cost-recuperation after 7.0 years, or 2.3 times longer than observed kraal lifetime. Conversely, owner-built replicates cost $579.90 per unit (n=4), recuperating investment after 3.1 years. Owner satisfaction was significantly higher for fortified kraals when compared with traditional kraals. However, owners of fortified kraals did not kraal their cattle more frequently than owners of traditional kraals. Regionally, the mean annual kraaling rate for 29 GPS-monitored cattle herds (n=3360 nights) was 40%, leaving cattle vulnerable to depredation, and highlighting the importance of promoting vigilant herding together with kraaling to prevent losses. This combination could reduce regional livestock losses by 80%, or>$38,000 annually, however, kraal fortification alone does not provide a blanket solution to carnivore conflicts in Africa's agro-pastoral landscapes.