13 December 2022
LIONS & PEOPLE SURVIVING TOGETHER
Aided by supporters, Born Free continues to work hard to safeguard the lions of Kenya and promote coexistence with local communities. David Manoa reports from Amboseli.
The conservation of the lion – this iconic African species – hinges on ensuring people and lions can live together side-by-side. Born Free’s Pride of Amboseli programme focusses on creating an environment in which people and lions can both peacefully coexist and thrive.
Kenya is the heartland of Born Free, the country where the inspiring true story of Elsa the lioness took place. Born Free has a significant investment in our country, with three of our major conservation programmes based in Kenya. All these programmes focus on encouraging coexistence between people and wildlife. This is a common theme in conservation in recent years – as human populations expand and natural habitats shrink, we must find ways of effectively coexisting with wildlife. The case is no different in Kenya.
Lions are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN* Red List and as few as 20,000 survive across Africa. In Kenya, however, there is clear evidence that lions – the symbol of Born Free – have been doing well in recent years. Since our lion conservation work began in Kenya in 2010 there has been a 25% increase, with the lion population increasing to as many as 2,500 individuals.
Although this is extremely good news, higher lion numbers can lead to an increase in conflict between people and lions. Lions can attack and kill livestock, especially when numbers of their natural prey are low, and can pose a significant safety threat to people. In response, people sometimes kill lions in what are known as retaliatory killings. If lion numbers are to increase, it is crucial that Born Free continue our vital work in mitigating conflict and promoting coexistence.
The Pride of Amboseli programme has been implementing one of the most successful human-lion conflict mitigation strategies in Amboseli since 2010. Our simple and cost-effective Predator-Proof Bomas are strengthened versions of traditional bomas, consisting of a two-metre-high chain-link fence, surrounding dry thorn bushes, and a door made of recycled metal drums. These provide overnight protection against predation by lions and other carnivores to pastoralists’ (nomadic livestock herders) livestock.
Born Free also provides eco-friendly ‘smart’ elements to the families living in these bomas, including solar lighting units, energy saving stoves, and water harvesting structures. These elements improve the health and wellbeing of community members by providing low-polluting indoor lights, so children can complete their homework in the evening, they reduce the need to spend time collecting firewood and degrading natural habitats, and they provide clean drinking water for people and livestock.
Since the programme’s inception in 2010, we have constructed an astounding 372 predator-proof bomas, benefitting more than 7,500 Maasai pastoralists and providing protection to over 100,000 cattle and shoats (collective name for sheep and goats). This year alone, we have constructed 15 predator-proof bomas, benefitting an estimated 230 pastoralists and protecting 3,220 cattle and goats!
Predator-proof bomas provide real tangible benefits to people – it was demonstrated that our bomas were astonishingly 91% effective at reducing depredation by lions. This is hugely important to pastoralist communities that are dependent on their livestock. There are also signs these interventions, as part of a multi-partner conservation effort in the Amboseli Ecosystem, are benefitting the lion population in the region, which has increased to an estimated 141 individuals. Protecting livestock builds tolerance for predators, and we have seen a reduction in retaliatory killings over the last decade.
“Lions frequently come here. One day, a lion was standing here, it stared at my livestock. The lion was not able to get inside my boma – the livestock were inside, and the lion was outside and very close by, but [as he could not get in] he walked off. This predator-proof boma has been really useful, as it protects my livestock from lions.”
We need your help to continue this work improving people’s lives in Amboseli and conserving one of Kenya’s most iconic species. You can support this work by donating to our winter appeal, Saving Lions Together, below.
*International Union for the Conservation of Nature