Category Archives: Lion Guardians: how the program came to be and why.

The Lion Guardians Community Film

Lion Guardians is often contacted by communities looking for solutions to the high conflict they are experiencing between lions and livestock. They have heard of our approach in the Amboseli ecosystem and are curious to learn more about the program. To facilitate this process, we have produced a film for these communities explaining the program and how it could help them. This film is meant to be shown to entire communities, as the success of our model depends on community consensus to participate in the program. The film has been prepared in both Maa (Maasai language) and Swahili (common language of East Africa) with English subtitles. Enjoy!

This film was directed by Kire Godal and funded by the St. Andrews Prize for the Evironment

Here is the Maa version

Here is the Swahili version

The Lion Guardians 2011 Annual Report is ready!

annual report


We are pleased to present you the Lion Guardians 2011 Summary Report, which can be downloaded here. The full length Annual Report (1.3MB) can be found here.

We have had an incredible year, and have started initial expansions of our lion monitoring and conflict mitigation work in Tanzania. We look forward to hearing any feedback or comments from you about our progress this year.

We hope you enjoy these reports, and encourage you to visit us at to follow our work or make a donation.

On behalf of the entire Lion Guardians team, I would like to express great thanks to all of our continuing and new 2011 donors and supporters. Thank you for your belief in our mission and your support in helping us to realize it.

Warmest regards,

Leela Hazzah, PhD
Founder & Director, Lion Guardians

Lion Guardians 2010 Annual Report Ready

We are pleased to tell you that the 2010 Lion Guardians Annual Report is ready. We have had an incredible year, and have expanded our lion monitoring and community work south of Amboseli National Park. There are currently 29 Lion Guardians monitoring lions and mitigating carnivore conflict in their communities.

Please follow this link to the report:

Thank you for supporting the Lion Guardians program and helping us conserve the remaining lions in the Amboseli Ecosystem.

Warmest regards,
Leela Hazzah
Director, Lion Guardians

Finding lost livestock and an interview

I received good news that Guardian Olubi has helped find over 100 shoats that were lost on Friday evening. ‘Shoat’ is an abbreviation for combined herds of sheep and goats or what some people refer to as small stock.

The owner is one of the luckiest persons on earth because none of his shoats were killed! The shoats were recovered between the road to Oltiasika and Nonkiyiaa on Saturday in the afternoon. This area where the animals were found is known to be hyena territory and sometimes a hiding place for lions. It always amazes me that a livestock herder and owner can ‘lose’ over 100 head of livestock.

On other news, a few months ago I was interviewed by Ross from Safaritalk. He asked me about the Lion Guardian program and about WildlifeDirect. I knew all the answers about the LG program, but Dipesh from WildlifeDirect helped me answer the questions about WD. Thanks, Dipesh! The interview is now online; you can read it here

Hope you all like it! Let me know what you think…..

Donations received, Maasai songs and webpages

Hello everyone,
We have good news: the Lion Guardian program now has a new webpage about the project and another webpage with pictures, Maasai songs, and interviews from each Guardian. They are new pages, we hope to add more to them so please give us your ideas and suggestions.
You can reach the new pages using these links (Lion Guardian project & Meet the Guardians) or they are permanently linked to our blog via our new Blogroll on the sidebar.

We also have received notification of several donations in the past weeks. The most sincere thank you to all of our wonderful supporters:

Francis D Open one-time donation of $20
Pirjo I Open one-time donation of $50
Mary H Open one-time donation of $50.00
Richard V Open monthly donation of $80
(For the sponsorship of Ritei – Thank you, Richard!!)
Hashi H Monthly Donation of $10

Here are the Guardians singing their thanks!
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Here I am with a group of murran from Isinet, the area on Mbirikani where I grew up.


Success story of the Lion Guardians

Success story of the Lion Guardians

Lion Guardians interact with many different people from other areas during their daily tasks. This mostly happens when Mbirikani has an influx of nomads due to the short rains which other ranches didn’t received. These people bring with them different traits specifically murrans (warriors) whose areas still continue killing lions. These murrans are never given a chance of education. The Lion Guardians encounter hard times trying to explain to them the story behind their change of minds to conserve the king of beasts rather than killing.

Warriors have had a history of knowing each from the different lion killing they have participated in. They use these criteria when moving to other places so that they can compete or even outdo their host murrans. This was the case that happened to Lenkiloriti and Emukutan Guardians. Some people may ask why Lenkiloriti and Emukutan got the visitors and not other areas on Mbirikani ranch? There are two main reasons: Lenkiloriti and Emukutan have good pastures and are not as far from water points as other places, like Oldoinyo Wuas whose livestock travel to Kikarangot River which is 20 kilometres south of our camp. Lenkiloriti and Emukutan are not infested with Tsetse flies like along the Chyulu Hills


Above is a photo of the Lenkiloriti area

Back to the Guardians story: Kapande (Guardian from Lenkiloriti) and Masarie (Guardian from Emukutan) went to a night dance invited by their new murran friends who have migrated over from neighboring group ranches. The purpose for this dance was actually to find out if Kapande and Masarie would take the new murrans out to hunt for lions. Kapande is well known as he killed more than two lion before he became a Lion Guardian.

Both Lion Guardians explained the benefits their communities are getting as a result of conservation and their changed ways. This was quite a surprise to visiting murrans since their expectation was to be shown where lions were. This made them wonder what is so special that inspired murrans not to go ahead with Olamayio (lion hunting parties). The Guardians told the newcomers about the Lion Guardian program and how nowadays warriors on Mbirikani benefit from protecting the lions, not killing them.


Here is Kapande watching livestock in his home area, Lenkiloriti

Background to the Lion Guardians program

Dear Blog-reader

A few people have requested more information on the Lion Guardians. Here is some material that will soon be published on our own website ( Please follow the link and see the a description of all the work that the Living with Lions initiative carries out.

Lion Guardians

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In collaboration with the local communities of Mbirikani ranch, the Living with Lions project, and the Maasailand Preservation Trust a program called “Lion Guardians” was initiated in October 2006. The impetus to create this project was in response to the slaughtering of over 130 lions in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem since 2001. Retaliatory and traditional spearing by Maasai warriors (murrans) is the greatest threat to the survival of lions in Kenyan Maasailand today. The Lion Guardian’s program attempts to reduce the pressure on lions by employing their greatest enemy to conserve them rather than kill them. Since the onset of this project there have been no lions killed on Mbirikani ranch.


The Guardians have two major duties: 1) to monitor lions and other carnivore movements so to protect them 2) aid their communities in various ways. Specifically; informing herders to avoid high-conflict grazing areas (where carnivores are present), improving livestock kraals, helping herders find lost livestock that are left out in the bush (and subsequently killed by predators), educating communities about carnivore importance and conservation, and lastly, but most importantly, Lion Guardians work with other murrans in the community to prevent further lion killings (both tradition and retaliation killings). Since the inception of the project, guardians have actively prevented over five hunting parties from killing lions. During the same time period, over 15 lions have been killed in surrounding group ranches by murrans. Given that the guardians come from the communities in which they work, and are older murrans (many have also killed lions in the past) they are very well respected by all community members and can assuage a tense situation of angry warriors wanting revenge on their dead cow.

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Currently there are nine guardians employed and managed by a Maasai coordinator under the direction of the Living with Lions initiative and the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project. The guardians are working in seven communities on the ranch where lion-livestock conflict is highest. Each guardian has been trained to document lion and other carnivore presence using GPS units, and then record it on a simple form with pictures rather than words making it easier for illiterate guardians. Also, each guardian knows how to track collared lions using telemetry receivers. Each lion that has been collared since the start of the project has been given a Maasai name by the guardian/s that helped with the collaring. In addition, every employee has a cell phone which is used to report back any significant sightings of lions or threat to their community to base camp.

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The Maasai in southern


are still totally dependent on their great herds of cattle, sheep and goats, but due to modernization and massive socioeconomic change, they have lost their traditional tolerance and ability to cope with carnivores and conflict. Today they regard wild animals as an unmitigated nuisance rather than an economic resource or embodiment of Maasai culture. If lions are to persist in this ecosystem, it is essential to increase tolerance of local communities by getting them involved in conservation and by showing them that benefits can come from conserving wildlife.