Perceptions and attitudes of a Maasai community in southern Kenya regarding predator-damage compensation, wildlife conservation and the predators that prey on their livestock
World-wide, carnivore numbers are declining, largely, due to conflict with humans. Wildlife-damage compensation schemes are one potential way to increase tolerance for carnivores while minimizing the financial losses people incur when carnivores prey on their livestock. The Predator Compensation Fund is one such scheme. Operating on Mbirikani Group Ranch, a communally owned area in southern Kenya’s Maasailand, the Predator Compensation Fund compensates owners for livestock attacked/killed by lion (Panthera leo), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), leopard (Panthera pardus) and spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), as well as 5 other mammalian species, in hopes of conserving the remaining local populations of these carnivores. This study examines the Predator Compensation Fund and the attitudes, perceptions and opinions of the Mbirikani Group Ranch community regarding the Predator Compensation Fund and carnivores. Selected using stratified random selection, 101 subjects (men and women) were interviewed in September and October, 2005, using a semi-structured interview format with open-ended questions. The results show that although the Predator Compensation Fund has increased tolerance levels for carnivores and the subjects indicated a desire for the project to continue, they also felt the project was unfair and inequitable. Many subjects also lacked an adequate understanding of the project, which lead to misperceptions and further negative attitudes towards the Predator Compensation Fund, carnivores and project administrators. Successful resolution of these issues will depend on frequent and extensive education efforts by the project for all community members, as well timely project information dissemination, which will serve to increase the project’s transparency. Additionally, adjustments to some rules and procedures are recommended to increase perceptions of fairness in the project, for both the community and the project, and to help shift the responsibility back to the community for properly protecting their livestock against carnivore attacks. Alternatives to compensation and the community’s willingness to accept alternatives to compensation are also investigated here. Implementing effective, resolution-minded changes should have significant positive effects for the Predator Compensation Fund, Mbirikani Group Ranch and, ultimately, carnivores.