Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Project Lion Rover - Meru

Elsa
The legendary Elsa

MERU, IN NORTHERN KENYA, IS BORN FREE’S HEARTLAND.

Meru is where George and Joy Adamson famously raised and released Elsa the lioness back to the wild, a story told in the book and subsequent film Born Free.

Meru is beautiful, wild and rugged country. Not for the faint-hearted. Its golden plains, acacia forests and stands of palm are criss-crossed by sparkling rivers that sustain the wildlife of this extraordinary landscape. Meru is the land of the lion. Not only because of Elsa, but it is where George went on to return three lions from the film Born Free, to a life of freedom.

Project Lion Rover is part of a new initiative in which Born Free will work with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Land Rover, the local Meru community and others, to do all we can to ensure that lions are free to live and thrive in the Meru Conservation Area (MCA) for generations to come.

lions

This unfortunate lion was killed by a snare
This unfortunate lion was killed by a snare

The recent history of lions across Africa is not a happy one. Since the late 1970’s the continental lion population has declined by more than 50%.  Kenya is one of only a handful of countries to have 2,000 wild lions or more, of which Meru National Park it is believed currently have between 40-50.

Without Born Free, KWS (www.kws.org) and Land Rover taking resolute and urgent action across a range of disciplines, we stand little chance of reversing the lion’s decline. The MCA could play a key role in the future.

What are the challenges?

A growing and increasingly settled human population means that human/wildlife conflict is on the increase, particularly as former lion ranges have been converted for agriculture and livestock. Additionally, a man was recently arrested with a lion tooth and several claws along the western boundary of the Park, indicating the possible existence of trade in lion parts.

The indiscriminate and widespread use of wire snares is significantly affecting the lions’ natural prey base, such as antelope and gazelle. This consequently leads to lions attacking livestock and thereby escalating the conflict. Furthermore, field reports confirm that lions have also been unintentionally trapped, injured, maimed and sometimes killed.

Snares come in various sizes and are set in different locations depending on the intended target animals. For example, giraffe snares are strategically strung between trees 3 meters or so above the ground. An advance Born Free team recently removed more than 150 deadly wire snares in just a week. Only a sustained, long-term effort can reduce this risk to lions and all other wildlife within the Park.

What is Born Free Doing?

Removing deadly snares
Meru National Park - North East of Nairobi

Phase One of Project Lion Rover, supported by Land Rover, involves the purchase and deployment of critically important equipment to the local KWS team charged with the protection of wildlife in the MCA.

In response to requests from Captain Ochieng, KWS Senior Warden Meru National Park (MCA), tents, laptops, binoculars, cold weather clothing, cameras and Global Positioning System units (GPS) have been purchased by Born Free with funds provided by Land Rover. They will be put into action as part of enhanced anti-poaching activities in late October 2014.

This Phase will be followed by a series of coordinated actions under the Lion Rover umbrella including: the establishment of a Born Free de-snaring team; the provision of supplemental fuel for anti-poaching activities; and the development of conflict mitigation strategies with local people (including improved livestock security).

Vitally important for the medium and long-term will be the integration of our efforts into the KWS Large Carnivore Conservation Strategy document (due for revision in 2015).

As part of this effort, we shall be working at the landscape level to support lion population analysis, in conjunction with the locally-based KWS Senior Scientist. This activity will permit us to establish credible lion baseline data and to monitor our progress in the months and years to come.

This research will help to: determine how many lions there are and what is happening to their natural prey species; identify conflict hotspots; help focus the KWS anti-poaching effort; determine what we can do to mitigate conflict; pin-point where bushmeat poaching is causing the greatest damage and guide our de-snaring team in their work to reduce its impact.

It will also help us decide how we can bring benefits to the local community, thereby creating an atmosphere of greater tolerance, understanding and respect for wildlife, especially lions.

A new era is dawning for Meru National Park and the MCA. The Lion Rover project, with its targeted approach, delivered by Born Free and KWS, supported by Land Rover, offers real hope for lions in their heartland.

Born Free’s commitment to lions is unshakable. The prospect of Kenya losing its lions is simply unthinkable. It is time for the Lions Rovers to roar!

Please make a donation to Project Lion Rover

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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