We are very pleased to share with you our 2012 Annual Report, which summarizes the collective efforts and accomplishments of the Lion Guardians team.
Here are just a few highlights of the past year:
- For the first time in nearly a decade, the lion population on the group ranches of Amboseli is growing! Since 2010, the majority of cubs have survived to sub-adulthood and some of the female cubs born in early 2010 already have cubs of their own. If this trend continues, the lion population will double in just a few years!
- In the core Amboseli ecosystem program area of approximately 4,000 square kilometers, 35 Lion Guardians recovered 11,533 out of 12,571 lost livestock, reinforced 351 bomas and, with assistance from our partners, successfully prevented 56 lion hunts.
- We expanded the program to two new areas with high rates of lion killing – the West Kilimanjaro ecosystem of northern Tanzania and the Ruaha ecosystem in southern Tanzania, the latter in partnership with Panthera and the Ruaha Carnivore Project.
- On a daily basis, 45 Lion Guardians use their literacy training, conservation skills and traditional knowledge to fill out research data forms and provide accurate information that is helping us to make ground-breaking findings about lion populations and behavior in human-dominated lands and protect these lions from every day threats.
- Lion Guardians won the presigious St. Andrews Prize for the Environment.
- David Attenborough visited the Lion Guardians to narrate their story as part of the new BBC Africa series.
Keep an eye out for the final episode of the BBC Africa series featuring Lion Guardian Olubi Lairumbe Wednesday 6th February on BBC One in the UK and Tuesday 12th February on Discovery in the US!
Help support the efforts of Lion Guardians by making a donation to our U.S. fiscal sponsor Wildlife Guardians. Simply click on the Donate Paw. You can also sponsor a lion or a Lion Guardian.
Thanks for your generous support!
Click the link to below to see our holiday card!
Warning: Graphic photos below
Lions know no boundaries and they usually cross the Kenyan-Tanzania border as they wish. A few weeks ago, the sub-adult males from Nooldoinyo’s pride crossed into Tanzania. They settled in an area called Oldepe where there was a concentration of temporary settlements mostly inhabited by Morans (warriors) with their family livestock who were following the sparse rain showers received a few days earlier. The majority of the Morans came from areas as far as Namanga and Arusha where the concept of wildlife conservation has very little exposure or significance. A few days ago, at around four in the afternoon, three lions from the above pride killed three cows while they were grazing. The herder ran home to alert the Morans who responded immediately. They found the partially eaten carcasses of the cows but instead of staying with the cow’s bodies overnight to protect them until they could be transported home the next day, they decided to merely erect some tree branches around the carcasses and went home. The lions returned during the night and finished eating what remained of the carcasses.
When the Morans returned early the next morning, they found the fully devoured carcasses and the lions still on the scene. Realizing that they would have to explain to the elders why they had left the carcasses of their cows at the lion’s disposal, (as opposed to bringing the meat home for local consumption) they decided to save face by killing the lions. The hunt was easy as the lions, with full bellies from having just gorged themselves, could only run for small distances at a time. The Morans succeeded in killing one of the sub-adult males, but during the conflict the lion managed to badly injure one of the warrior’s (he will be OK though). The other two lions escaped, fleeing back to Kenya. This is the first time that Nooldoinyo’s pride. which has developed a reputation for being notorious livestock killers, have had a member killed. We have yet to identify the individual lion that was killed as the traits that we would use to positively identify the lion (whisker spots, nose spots, ear notches etc.) had already been removed from the lion before we arrived. We repositioned the carcass to see if we could find any characteristics to help us figure out the lion’s identity, but found none. We will have to wait and see which lion is missing from the group in future sightings.
The head, paws and tails are missing, making identification virtually impossible.
As soon as we heard about the hunt, we immediately came to the site and convened a cross-border meeting supported by our partner AWF to address the issue. The meeting was attended by several stakeholders, including AWF, Enduimet Wildlife Management Area officials and AWF/Big Life supported community game scouts. Together we have planned a series of awareness creation activities in an attempt to nip these retaliatory killings in the bud.
In the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, no lions have been killed in the areas where Lion Guardians operate. Help support the Lion Guardians expansion into the area across the Tanzania Border by visiting our website. Donate now.
A Lion Guardian stands watch over the lion’s carcass.
Leopards have for a very long time had been considered by many to be an extinct species in Eselenkei Group Ranch. Since the creation of the Selenkay conservancy, many species have made it their refuge. Elephants, which have been absent here for a period of 20 years prior to the creation of the conservancy, are now a permanent feature as are oryxes, elands, lesser kudus and gerenuk. Since our arrival in Selenkay in 2009, we have noted an increase in leopard tracks close to our camp and beyond. The tracks differ in sizes and gender and we suspect that there is a population of at least ten leopards in the conservancy.
However, as leopards are very difficult to see during the day, we have only seen one scavenging on a giraffe killed by a lion. All other sightings have been through camera traps. Recently, one of our Lion Guardians reported finding a carcass of a baby giraffe killed by a leopard. We were doubtful of the accuracy of the report but when we went to verify, it was very clear from the tracks on the scene that it was indeed a leopard kill. However, our attempts to see the culprit, who we suspect to be a male leopard, were unsuccessful; we pray for the day we will come into contact with him.
Yesterday, as we were heading to our new expansion site in Tanzania, I saw a figure far away in the distance on the road near Amboseli Porini camp, It was very clear to me that this was not a log. As we drove towards the figure, it remained completely composed and seemed to be in no hurry to move. As we moved closer, I immediately knew it was a male leopard. Once he decided that our vehicle was close enough, he slowly got up, stretched his body and majestically strolled towards a nearby thicket while raising his tail to entice a few guinea fowls that were mocking him. We were lucky to finally see him during the day! After our exciting morning encounter, we proceeded across the border and held two successful meetings with our partners in Tanzania.
Selenkay’s pride which is now composed of ten lions is well known for being a livestock killing group. This is because they have killed livestock in almost every corner of their territory and have been hunted countless times in retaliation. Fortunately, we have succeeded in stopping all lion hunting party’s intent on killing them except for the politically motivated hunt that killed their sister Narika two years ago. However, over the last two months, as if sensing the tension and danger in the air as a result of the conflict in Amboseli, this pride has confounded many that know their reputation. They have not killed any livestock and thus managed to stay away from the limelight.
This is Loomuguri, son of Selenkay and Ndelie, eating meat.
Throughout this conflict period, they have only been hunted once by a group of morans but not in retaliation and fortunately, we were able to come to their rescue. Yesterday, we found them relaxing close to Amboseli Porini camp in Selenkay conservancy with visitors having a field day clicking their cameras. The pride looked absolutely healthy and the cubs seem to have grown bigger beyond their age.
Nempatipat is the daughter of Selenkay and Ndelie
Ndelie, the resident male lion was with them and he seems to have grown in confidence as opposed to his usual skittishness with the car. Lioness Elikan who likes to go solo when she stops weaning, was out hunting and left the motherly Selenkay to be constantly harassed by the playful cubs under the watchful eye of Ndelie. The good news is that their primary prey species are available in plenty owing to the proximity to watering points. This is ideal lion behavior especially in a politically poisoned environment and we pray that they abstain from livestock killing as we wait for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
One of Selenkay’s cubs investigating the camera.
With negotiations underway between the Maasai and KWS, Amboseli has reverted back to its normal calm.
Peace and order has returned to the Amboseli ecosystem after a series of meetings held between the communities surrounding Amboseli National Park
and the Kenya Wildlife Service
(KWS). The meetings were attended by thousands of community members as well as by top government officials. In the most recent meeting which was held on the 27th of August, the anger and emotions witnessed in the two previous meetings were replaced with the order and respect for which the Maasai community is well known. The main agenda item of the meetings has been to discuss a way to fairly distribute the revenue generated by Amboseli National Park to the communities living in the areas surrounding the park, who are experiencing high rates of human-wildlife conflict and are incurring significant costs (both monetary and life) as a result. This has been and still is a very contentious issue and is at the root of most of the retaliatory and political killings of wildlife that have occurred in the area.
To present a unified front, the community leaders all met ahead of the meetings to put together a unified list of grievances and demands that was presented to KWS. Severalof these issues can be addressed directly by KWS, but there are also many that are dependent upon the enactment of the 2011Wildlife Bill
, which has yet to be passed in parliament and upon legal interpretations of the recently introduced new constitution. So finding a solution that will be satisfactory to all parties will be an on going process – but the good news is that a productive discussion has been started and is proceeding forward.
A crucial element of the meeting is that the communities have all agreed that they will no longer take their frustrations out on the innocent animals and will instead focus on directing their energies towards advocating for a fair allocation of revenue sharing through further discussions with KWS and through the legal and judicial systems. The group ranch leaders have informed all of their members that the killing of wildlife is unacceptable and will not be tolerated and they also invited all of the conservation organizations working in the ecosystem to resume their operations.
We are greatly relieved by this news and our Lion Guardians
have now resumed their daily duties.
The killing spree in Amboseli necessitated by political tensions between Kenya Wildlife Service and political leaders had a devastating effect to both wildlife and the community. Community leaders met and took stock of the killings within all of the Group Ranches. The results were shocking, but would have been worse were it not for the critical but strategic intervention of some of the stakeholders. We can confirm the killing of 3 buffalos, 5 elephants and a sub adult female lion. The lion was intentionally driven out and killed at the edge of Amboseli Park after attempting to kill a cow during the day. One of the new Morans was the first to spear, but she injured 2 people. The carcass was transported on motorbikes and disposed of and has yet to be found. Coincidentally, a male lion that killed a cow on the Tanzania-Kenya border was also killed by Tanzanian Maasai.
About 18 elephants were speared but escaped with injuries and the relevant authorities are currently treating many. These killings appeared to have instilled a sense of fear among the wildlife and added stress to the elephants. A lot of resources were utilized in protecting and providing security as well as apprehending the culprits. A total of 44 Morans were arrested and released. Thirty-one of them received serious injuries and were admitted to a hospital in Namanga and the situation is still tense. Shortly after tempers cooled, two female lionesses killed a cow and a donkey and a party of 18 Morans attempted to kill them near Kitirwa. The Morans thereafter openly admitted swallowing their pride and went home after the lionesses, with 6 small cubs, went wild and instilled some fear into them.
Elikan tries to get a piece of the donkey that Selenkay is moving
Now that the new Lion Guardians website is up and running, it has been super interesting to monitor the demographics of who is visiting the website. To date, 562 people have visited the website a total of 792 times. They spend on average 2 minutes and 41 seconds perusing the site, visiting an average of 2.91 pages per visit. They come from 51 different countries – with the bulk of them in the US, followed by the UK. Our goal for the month is to get up to 1,000 visitors – so please, come check out the site!
We’ve launched our new website lionguardians.org, but now need people to visit the website so that it will show up in search engines. Please click the link and visit the site. It is still a work in progress, and we are slowly continuing to add and edit content, so come back and visit often! If you have time, it would also be great if you could do a google search for Lion Guardians and then click on the link to our website, which shows up as the 6th or 7th item. Lets make our way to the top! Tell your friends!
Since late last year and the beginning of this year, conflict levels have drastically reduced. Lion attacks on livestock have been few and far in between and this has made the work of various stakeholders within the Amboseli ecosystem, including our Lion Guardians, a bit easy. However, hyenas, the most hated animal by any pastoralist, seem to have other ideas! Their attacks on livestock have been on the increase every single day and they are now practically on the rampage. Their attacks on livestock, at bomas and in the bush when they get lost, are now stretching communal tolerance towards carnivores. Reports of their attacks are not confined to a particular locality, rather they are widely distributed across the ecosystem.
Hyenas killing a calf
The Maasai community respect and admire lions because they cannot attack livestock unless they are hungry. And even when they do, they kill only what they can eat. For example in a herd of 100 cows, they only kill one. But hyenas kill any moving livestock even if they can no longer eat, which is why they are so disliked by pastoralists!
Spotted hyena can eat up to one third of its body weight