Human-lion conflict is a major issue for pastoralist communities and lion populations in Kenya due to habitat loss, encroachment and persistent drought. Although Kenya is considered a stronghold for lions in Africa, just 2000 lions remain in fragmented habitats across the country. It is therefore vital that real conservation solutions are implemented, in collaboration with local communities.
Following the successful street art exhibition and auction of fifty spectacular lion sculptures during Born Free’s Pride of Kenya event held in Nairobi in 2009, Born Free is channeling the funds raised into lion conservation projects in Kenya.
The aim of the first project, located in the Amboseli area, is to help pastoralist communities find practical solutions to living harmoniously with lions and other predators. This can be achieved by combining community education, reinforcement of bomas (livestock enclosures) and tactful herding of livestock during the day. Major ‘hot spot’ areas have been identified in Amboseli where it is estimated that 11 lions were killed in retaliation for livestock predation between December 2009 and February this year.
Born Free is working with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Living With Lions, The Kenya Wildlife Trust, Predator Conservation Fund and others to purchase the necessary materials for the construction of lion proof bomas and give technical advice on their deployment to the communities around Amboseli National Park. The community themselves will construct and maintain the bomas with guidance and support.
Communities in Amboseli have, in principle, welcomed the initiative and recognise that the project will significantly help them to protect their livestock, minimise human-predator conflict and ultimately protect the lions in the area. Initially, at least three lion proof demonstration bomas will be constructed, monitored and evaluated with the aim of implementing more bomas in due course.
To begin with, David Manoa from Born Free Kenya and Steve Ekwanga from Living with Lions project, using one of the Born Free Land Rovers, have been carrying out community education by showing the film Living with Lions to communities in Amboseli thanks to a Mobile Film Unit kindly donated by Ann Kent Taylor. The film explains in the Maa language how pastoralist communities in other areas, such as Laikipia, have been able to minimise lion-livestock conflict in their areas and how this success could be replicated in other areas bringing important benefits to local communities – and to wild lions.