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Fast, ferocious and famously noble. Who would imagine that lions are among the most vulnerable creatures on the planet?
According to a small yet important grassroots conservation project called Ewaso Lions, at the current rate of loss, unless something is done, Kenya’s lions could be threatened in the near future.
“We definitely need parks, but most areas are too small for lions and they get into trouble when they move beyond them,” explains Shivani Bhalla, founder of Ewaso Lions. “Working with lions on community-run land is important for their conservation.”
The problem for lions is twofold: habitat loss combined with human confrontation – though rather than poaching, which so severely threatens other animals, lions are primarily threatened over livestock depredation. The northern Kenyan people are primarily pastoralists who raise sheep, goats and cows. In community areas, lions often kill livestock.
“This causes great resentment amongst the local people,” explains Bhalla. “And often people come and retaliate by killing lions.” In order to protect their livestock, pastoralists may retaliate by shooting, spearing or poisoning lions.
Under the leadership of Shivani Bhalla, PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and a National Geographic Explorer, Ewaso Lions focuses on research and education. This includes GPS tracking, camera traps and lion monitoring. “We monitor 40 lions in the region, each lion has been individually identified and we monitor them on a daily basis.”
The human factor is a vital component of the programme’s success, including lion scouts who work in community areas. “They’re out every day patrolling the region collecting information on predators, livestock and ungulates to really see what are the factors that affect the lion population in this area. Is it other predators, is it people, is it changes in prey?”
Ewaso also uses “ambassadors” drawn from the local community. The Warrior Watch programme engages the local Samburu warriors, known as Morans.
“We realize the Morans had been previously neglected when it came to wildlife conservation decision-making, so we’ve engaged 18 warriors in four different conservancies.” Warriors collect information on predators and talk to communities about predator locations, so they can take their livestock away from those locations to avoid potential predator conflict. “They really have become wildlife ambassadors within their communities.”
Ewaso Lions is the first project to conduct a formal research study on the lion population in Samburu, Kenya. Ewaso Lions’ community outreach and education programmes engage local people in conservation, provide training, find creative solutions to human-wildlife conflict and give back to the community.
A visit with the Ewaso Lions team can be arranged on your Micato Bespoke Safari or on select departures of the Hemingway Wing Safari. To inquire about a visit, contact a Safari Specialist at Micato Safaris at 1-800-MICATO-1 or by email