Community camera-trapping: an innovative way of empowering communities through conservation

Ruaha Carnivore Project
Published: 26 October 2021
Last edited: 02 March 2022
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One major conservation challenge is ensuring local people recognise meaningful benefits directly from wildlife presence, rather than from the presence of tourists, NGOs etc. Here, we engaged local villagers living adjacent to Ruaha National Park, and employed them to use camera-traps to monitor wildlife on their land. Each image of a wild animal generated points, with more points for more threatened and more conflict-causing species. Every 3 months, these points are translated into additional community benefits, focused on local priority areas of healthcare, education and veterinary care. This has become one of the largest drivers of local development, and is directly incentivising conservation, with villagers taking steps to protect wildlife and habitat. This improves livelihoods while reducing the major threat of conflict, which imperils lions and other species in this critically important area. This has been a successful, scalable solution, which is now being adapted and implemented in other landscapes across East Africa.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Rangeland / Pasture
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Indigenous people
Land management
Outreach & communications
Science and research
Species management
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Sendai Framework
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030


Iringa, Tanzania | It is also being implemented in Zambia and about to be expanded into Kenya
Luangwa, Lusaka, Zambia


Wildlife - particularly dangerous species like lions - has immense global value, but often imposes significant social and economic costs on local people. This often leads to intense conflict, resulting in frequent wildlife poisoning, snaring and other killing, with major environmental impacts. A major challenge exists to meaningfully translate the wider value of wildlife down to the local level. Traditionally, there has been an expectation that activities such as tourism or NGO outreach programmes will do that, but the value becomes associated with the organisation rather than the wildlife itself. This initiative links the amount of community benefits directly to the number of wild animals recorded, incentivising conservation. It also provides greater rewards for species which cause conflict or are more threatened, to help offset costs and focus more conservation efforts on those species.


This work benefits over 40,000 people in 20 villages so far. In particular, it benefits marginalised groups such as traditional pastoralists (1/3 of benefits are focused on them), and women, as one key area of benefits is improving maternal and child health.

How do the building blocks interact?

The monitoring phase is the fundamental part of the process, and there also needs to be clarity about how those translate into benefits. The benefits are then distributed in a way which is transparent and regular enough to enable a change in behaviour, incentivising conservation. Together these help ensure that wildlife presence is seen as a real driver of local development, raising awareness and interest in conservation, and enabling people to make changes to protect biodiversity on their land.


In Tanzania, this programme delivers over $80,000 worth of community benefits to villagers around Ruaha National Park annually, which has been invested in improving local healthcare, education and veterinary care for livestock. Over 30 local villagers have been employed and gained skills and salaries through the project. The initiative has now been recognised as one of the major drivers of local development, with very important impacts on local health, education and empowerment.


It also has clear environmental impacts: because local people now see tangible, meaningful benefits as a direct result of maintaining wildlife, they have started taking actions to improve conservation. This has included some villages putting local bans on lion and elephant hunts, while others have protected waterholes, protected dens of large carnivores, and similar action.


Ruaha Carnivore Project

An amazing example of this programme changing attitudes and behaviors recently occurred when pastoralists in the village of Mafuluto found a hyena den while grazing cows. Hyaenas are responsible for more than 80% of depredation events and in the past these dens would normally have been set on fire or snares put around the vicinity.  But these days things are different! The pastoralists went straight to the Community Camera Trap Officers in Mafuluto and suggested the put the camera traps near the den to gain more points and more veterinary medicine. Not only do the pastoralists receive benefits directly from wildlife presence on their land but we also get to enjoy beautiful pictures, and show them in the villages to raise awareness and interest in these wonderful animals

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