Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

EWASO Lions

Lioness Magilani
The plight of Magilani the lioness highlighted the extent to which local communities have embraced lion conservation. Magilani and her two young cubs were familiar residents within the Westgate Conservancy at the heart of Ewaso Lions area, but she disappeared and was then briefly seen, obviously critically injured in June 2011. Local communities scoured the area to find ‘their lion’, but to no avail and the plight of her lone cubs was taken to heart by the Samburu community.

Lion numbers in Africa have collapsed by 30-50% in the last 20 years. Today no more than 35,000 lions are thought to exist. There are varied reasons for this dramatic decline, but significantly, lions are losing habitat resulting in increased conflict with local communities- especially those with livestock-based livelihoods and living in or adjacent to areas where lions persist.

Kenya remains a stronghold for lions which occur across an estimated 19% of the country including significant areas outside of formally protected sites. Community-based approaches to promoting lion conservation are key. One of the most successful is the Ewaso Lions project in the Samburu area of northern Kenya.

Established in 2007 by Oxford PhD student and 2012 Virginia McKenna Compassionate Conservation Award winner, Shivani Bhalla Ewaso Lions uses scientific research and community-based outreach programmes to promote coexistence between lions and people, and is the only project in northern Kenya to focus on lions in and out of protected areas.

Research that keeps lions alive

Local Samburu warriors are the project’s eyes and ears, helping estimate and monitor lion numbers and movements across a number of community-managed ‘Conservancy’ areas. They also assess the extent and impact of human-lion conflict, doing their best to mitigate such conflict before it results in a lion’s death.

How are local communities involved?

Local communities are at the heart of this project. Ewaso Lions believe that the survival of predators depends on finding ways people can benefit from their presence. The project has established several community outreach and education programmes to engage different sectors of local society in conservation, providing training and finding creative solutions to human-wildlife conflict that give back to the community.

Is it making a difference?

“Without a doubt yes!  The ties that Ewaso Lions have established with the proudly traditional Samburu are remarkable and evident at every turn. Local warriors are lion monitors in the morning, community liaison officers by lunch and innovators, testing new approaches to keeping lions out of a remote cattle boma by evening. The project harnesses the positive energy of women’s groups, schools, community elders, tour operators and many other stakeholders all of whom play a part in conserving lions and other predators because they feel consulted and involved.”

What can you do?

Ewaso lions
Born Free is this year extending its support to Ewaso Lions in recognition of the significant contribution that Shivani and her local team of warriors are making to lion conservation. Further support is needed to expand this innovative and successful approach.

Help us support Ewaso Lions. The project needs to raise support to extend their successful approach to other Samburu communities in adjacent Conservancy areas where lions and other predators are largely unprotected and persecuted. Please support Jenerai and his fellow warriors to conserve Kenya’s lions.

Education
It’s not all about the lions! Warriors asked for assistance in improving their reading and writing skills and every weekend they go back to school thanks to the provision of a dedicated teacher.
Livestock
Livestock and especially cattle are central to the lives of the Samburu. Findings ways to mitigate the conflict between local people and predators that often take domestic stock such as lions, hyena, leopard and cheetah has been critical to success. Born Free is involved with similar work in the Amboseli area of Kenya.
Head tracker Jenerai
Head Tracker and Research Assistant Jenerai on the right has become a key figure within the Ewaso Lions team. Here the team are visiting a boma that has been suffering from repeated leopard attack to trial a new light system that will hopefully keep predators at bay.
Lion Lights
One approach to keeping predators at bay is the use of ‘lion-lights’. The Ewaso Lions team are piloting different systems, all of which seek to imitate the presence of people guarding their livestock at night.
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