Since 1990 lions have killed more than 563 Tanzanians, including nursing mothers, children playing outside their huts and people dragged from their beds. Consequently, increasing numbers of lions are being killed by local people. In an effort to find a way to protect both people and lions, University of Minnesota researchers have analyzed the factors involved in attacks and identified the control of bush pigs -- a major agricultural pest -- as the most promising strategy for curbing attacks. The research will be published Aug. 18 in Nature.
Conflicts between lions and people have escalated recently, in part because of Tanzanias rapid population growth -- from 23.1 million in 1988 to 34.6 million in 2002 -- and an associated loss of lion prey outside protected areas. About 39 percent of attacks happen during the March-May harvest season, when farmers often sleep in their fields to protect their crops from bush pigs; more than 27 percent of attacks occur in fields. Other statistics make it clear that no one is immune: More than 18 percent of victims whose ages were known were younger than 10, and 69 percent of older victims were men, who are more likely to tend cattle, forage for bush meat, walk alone at night and retaliate against man-eaters and cattle-killers with nets and spears. Most rural dwellers live in houses with thatched roofs, and lions simply force their way inside. Lacking indoor plumbing, people are attacked when visiting outdoor toilets.
"People in the United States often tend to think of lions, tigers, etc. as cute and cuddly because we dont know what its like to live with predatory animals who threaten us and our familes," said Craig Packer, a professor of ecology, evolution and behavior in the universitys College of Biological Sciences, who led the study. "Thats because 150 years or so ago, our ancestors in the United States killed off the most dangerous predators in the country.
Deane Morrison | EurekAlert!
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