MWCT realizes living in harmony with wildlife (i.e. lions, leopards, hyenas etc.) can be very challenging as livestock owners experience considerable financial losses as a result of livestock depredation by these predators. So in acknowledgement MWCT started the Wildlife Pays compensation program for predator protection in 2007 to alleviate the burden of living with wildlife for the local Maasai community in agreement to not kill but protect all wildlife on Kuku Group Ranch.
Different from many other compensation programs MWCT’s Wildlife Pays program is fully sustainable as it is funded by “conservation surcharges” from Campi ya Kanzi and does not rely on institutional or philanthropic funding. This is a form Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).
A rigorous multi-layer system of verification is in place to prevent and to detect possible cases of fraud that might undermine the program. Per quarter, a member can get compensation only once for depredation in a bad boma or with poor husbandry; no compensation will be paid for subsequent negligent incidents that quarter. This ensures that there is an incentive for livestock owners to improve the protection of their livestock.
Besides compensating for livestock losses, MWCT also actively engages the community to improve their bomas and herding strategies to reduce depredation of livestock.
The compensation program has been wildly successful. The total number of livestock predation incidents remained fairly stable over the years (slight decrease), while predator and livestock numbers in the area have increased.
In 2015, 40% of Wildlife Pays claims were attributed to Hyenas.
MWCT sees both the larger Spotted species as well as the slighter and rarer Striped species within Kuku – mostly at night via watering hole camera traps due to the Hyenas nocturnal tendencies.
Although hyenas appear similar to dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats, but are classified in neither family – instead occupying their own called Hyaenidae. Spotted hyenas live together in large groups called clans that may include up 80 individuals and are led by females.
In 2015, 26% of Wildlife Pays claims were attributed to Lions.
MWCT goes to great lengths to protect Lions from retaliatory killing on behalf of the Maasai after a livestock loss.
Lion populations have decreased by almost half in the last two decades.
In 2015, 16% of Wildlife Pays claims were attributed to Jackals.
The Jackal, while a significantly smaller animal compared to Hyenas and Lions, can still take down a sheep or goat – especially as they are often cooperative hunters when faced with larger prey. Jackals are omnivores, so will also feed upon fruits, berries and grass.
In 2015, just 7% of Wildlife Pays claims were attributed to Cheetahs.
Only 7,500 Cheetah remain in the wild, with just 25% of their previous habitat size left to sustain them.
Cheetah stalk their prey and once close, will burst off with impressive speed, knocking prey to the ground and suffocating the animal with a bite to the neck. Cheetahs are a timid predator and will eat quickly to avoid scavengers – like Hyena, Lion and Jackal – from stealing their meal.
In 2015, 4% of Wildlife Pays claims were attributed to Baboons.
Baboons can live in troops of up to 300 individuals (though the average is about 50), with large males weighing up to 100 pounds.
While omnivores, Baboons are swift and tenacious predators – eating birds, other monkeys, and smaller prey like antelopes and goats, when the opportunity presents itself.
In 2015, Leopards were attributed to just 3% of Wildlife Pays claims.
The Leopards of Kuku have circular spots (or rosettes) in contrast to Southern African Leopards whose spots are square.
Elusive and solitary predators, Leopards are exceptionally strong climbers able to carry prey twice their bodyweight into trees for a relaxed meal away from scavengers.
THE VERIFYING OFFICERS
The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust employs 4 Verifying Officers to attend to the claims made by the Kuku community. These Verifying Officers are responsible for getting to claims quickly, talking with the owners and neighbors, documenting photographic and video evidence, and analyzing the authenticity of the verbal testimonies and physical evidence of the claim. All photographs are taken with GPS-enabled smart phones with geotagging that feeds into large database of statistical information for program-wide analysis. With this information, Verifying Officers assign a Claim Type to each incident and fill out a credit note where one copy is provided to the owner for reimbursement and the other copy is brought back to the MWCT headquarters for entry into our digital database and further analyzed by our Conservation Team before approval. Our Verifying Officers provide an immense service and impact to the vast Kuku community spanning over 280,000 acres.