Sierra Leone is home to six different species of wild cat: the leopard, the West African lion, the African wildcat, the golden cat, the serval and the caracal. These cat species are no longer as common as they once were across the country as their habitats and food sources are disappearing. In the Outamba Kilimi National Park the leopards are under threat from poaching and retaliatory killings. When food sources in the forest are scare, as the cats are competing with humans for wild game, they frequently will kill livestock to survive.
Finding out ways to lessen this contact means that humans must have a reliable source of protein that doesn’t come from wild game species, and they must have a way to protect their livestock from predators. This will not only increase food security for the people living within and along side of the Outamba Kilimi National Park but will also increase prey abundance for the wild cats with whom they share their landscape.
The Pan Verus Project is entering the field in March 2018 to set up camera traps to analyze the abundance and variety of species within the Outamba Kilimi National Park, and also to understand the ways in which humans and wildlife come into contact, which often spells conflict. Within the next year the Pan Verus Project hopes to identify the needs of the communities so that small livestock and livestock protection training can occur in these area. This means building things like shelters for their livestock to sleep in, which will keep predators like lions and leopards out, and rebuilding their flocks so that they do not need to rely on wild game species for sustenance.
The Pan Verus Project recently received an approval of a donation request for 5 bottles of Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men cologne from Calvin Klein’s parent company, PVH.
Why does a West African wildlife conservation and research project need men’s cologne? Well, big cats are known to be incredibly attracted to the smell of this cologne in particular. When the director of the project, Sarah Bell worked in zoos and big cat rescue facilities she would often use Obsession for Men in big cat enrichment, and so was born the idea of baiting camera traps with the scent. Scents are preferable to baiting with food as it doesn’t disturb their diet, and they tend to last a bit longer.
Camera traps will be placed across the Outamba Kilimi National Park later this month and we hope to document healthy and flourishing populations of wild cats, though unfortunately this probably will not be the case. West African lion populations in particular have seen a massive decline in the last hundred years, and their population and range are only a small fraction of what they once were, with only an estimated 400 lions remaining in 17 West African countries.