Tag Archives: Kenya

Problem Lion

Two new lions have been spotted patrolling Amboseli National Park. Whenever these two brothers, Amboga and Companion, move into a new area, the resident male lions there move out. Amboga and Companion are now the new kids on the block in the park. They have made the northwestern side of the park their home and have managed to chase Kip, one of the resident lions known to Lion Guardians, out of the area and into the communal land along the Kenyan-Tanzania border. As a result, Kip has been terrorizing Maasai bomas and killing livestock frequently. He now resides in Kitirwa conservancy and makes occasional forays into Tanzania.

Amboga

Amboga

Recently, he killed several shoats (goats and sheep) and cows in Tanzania and then crossed over to Kenya. On another occasion, he killed a cow and subsequently injured a Maasai warrior (murran) who was part of a group hunting him. Kip was able to escape. Several times the Maasai have hunted for him unsuccessfully. A few days ago, he was shot at with guns along the border in Tanzania, he luckily escaped again and crossed over to Kenya where he terrorized more bomas (Maasai livestock enclosure) along the boundary. He is currently a wanted lion in this area.

Kip

Kip

Clearly, even though he is alive for now, he is under the spot light and could be living his last days. What is hard to understand is why Kip, whom is not very old, doesn’t hunt the abundant wildlife that resides in and around the park. Why he has developed a soft spot for livestock meat is only known by him. If he consigns himself to Kenya he stands a better chance of surviving because there people are more tolerant to predators compared to their Tanzanian counterparts.

Kip

Kip

Conflict-resolution meeting after Nosioki killing

After the poisoning of Nosioki and her cub, there was a meeting yesterday in Matapato to discuss the incident. People were calm since the two suspects that had been arrested a few days prior were released on the eve of the meeting in a surprise move by KWS. Before the release the Group Ranch was furious, they didn’t know arrests were possible due to the fact that previously, 3 lions had been killed in this area with no arrests made. Therefore, they were very happy for the release.  The elders from the Group Ranch where the suspects come from begged for forgiveness of the conservationists present ( MPT, Big Life Foundation, Lion Guardians, and KWS) while vowing such an incident will never take place again. They decried the act saying it was cowardly and has no place in the Maasai tradition, saying instead ’when a brave Maasai is annoyed he uses his spear’.

Conflict-resolution meeting

Conflict-resolution meeting

During the meeting, the elders revealed that a few months ago unbeknownst to us, they decided to set aside Osewan (a thicket full of different wildlife species) as a conservancy with an elected committee in order to receive an income. They invited several conservation stakeholders present (those mentioned above) to work closely with them to help increase levels of tolerance towards wildlife and to develope this fledgling conservancy still in its nascent stage. They announced to all and sundry that they will curse anyone who will use poisoning within their territory and will hand him over to the authorities for possible prosecution. Two District Wardens present also decried the use of poison and lion killing in the area in general.

Cremation of Nosioki and her cub

Cremation of Nosioki and her cub

Leaders from both Olgulului Group Ranch and Mailua Group Ranch were present in the well attended meeting that recognized the critical role and vigilance by the Lion Guardians in the field. This was a very good meeting considering the usual tempers that flare wherever the agenda is livestock-lion related. We left the meeting with mixed feelings, worried with the precedent that will be set by the sudden release of suspects but buoyed by the glimmer of hope that a  conservancy will bring to the future of the area. Whether this will happen or not, only time will tell.

Nosioki and cub are dead

My fears have now been validated. I regret to inform you that Nosioki, our motherly female lioness is no more! A few days ago, I wrote about the lion-livestock conflict in Osewan. This area has been of great concern to the Lion Guardians given the fact that it is just outside of Lion Guardian zones, on a neighboring Group Ranch, where the environment is rife with conflict. Lions have consistently been killing livestock in this thick area which was acting as a sanctuary for both livestock and wildlife. However, yesterday, 7 weak sheep that usually graze nearby got lost. They were found dead having been killed by hyenas based on the pattern of the killing. The carcasses were then laced with a white substance that is known to originate from Tanzania.

Poisoned sheep carcass

Poisoned sheep carcass

In the early hours of the morning, Nosioki and her cubs came across the carcasses and ate. The first female cub died instantly and our Lion Guardians found her and reported it immediately.

Lion Guardian Sitonik with Nosioki's dead cub

Lion Guardian Sitonik with Nosioki's dead cub

As they were relaying the information to us, Nosioki was kicking and taking her last breath. We found her dead shortly thereafter. Two vultures that had been perched on top of a nearby tree, later dropped dead, as well as countless flies. We assembled all the sheep, vultures and lion carcasses and burned them in order to prevent anymore death.

Sitonik with Nosioki

Sitonik with Nosioki

One male cub was still alive in the thicket and he ran away from us as we approached, a sign of being alert. Pua Mederi, the big male lion in the pride was fortunately not around and the cub might have been lucky. Our Lion Guardians are out today to look for his signal. However, with the male cub being barely a year, his fate is almost certain to be over.

The picture of Nosioki with her head facing down was clearly a sight to behold! I have never seen anything like this before. This was not just another lion to me. It was Nosioki, an individual that has been known to us for the last two years. She was part of the pride of Eselenkei community and owing to her good reputation of not killing livestock she was well liked. However, recently, since moving to a new area less tolerant of wildlife in general and predators in particular, she developed a trait of being a constant livestock killer.

Sitonik and Eric with Nosioki

Sitonik and Eric with Nosioki

Personnel from Kenya Wildlife Service later joined us but did not take any action saying the area is out of their Amboseli jurisdiction. The culprit is well known so we urge that action be taken against him- The killing has to stop. Without any action being taken against the culprit, many predators will disappear since this is the fourth lion to be killed in the area. Already, the future of Amboseli National Park hangs in the balance as animal migratory corridors and dispersal areas are being sold off. Add this to a continuous and systematic decimation of the dwindling lion population due to poisoning across the border in Tanzania and on the outlying Group Ranches, the fear of Amboseli becoming one big dust bowl will soon be real. God forbid!

Lion Guardians urgently need  your help and support to expand into this critical area. Please take a few minutes to make a donation now, and help the Lion Guardians protect other lions from the same fate of Nosioki and her cubs.

Poisoning Incident That Did Not Kill

Nosioki, a lion that normally resides in Eselenkei Group Ranch, has for the past year found sanctuary with her cubs in an area called Osewan. Due to its dense environment, it is an ideal area for any lion wanting to raise cubs to maturity. After giving birth to her cubs, Nosioki, a favorite lion for many given the fact that she rarely kills livestock, started portraying a different behavior. Now , along with her cubs who are approaching the one year mark, she has begun killing livestock that come to Osewan in search of pasture.

Nosioki

Nosioki

The killing spree has been so consistent that it has angered people a great deal. Just a few days ago, with the help of her two cubs and one male lion, 8 shoats (Maasai herd smaller livestock such as goats and sheep together, hence the term shoats) were killed in the area. In the past, people were unsuccessful at tracking her down and killing her, due to the thickness of the forest. This time the local people have decided to use a different tactic. They placed the carcass of a poison laced goat in an area where they were sure Nosioki would find it. They then threatened our Lion Guardians present and told everybody to go home. Thanks to our dedicated Lion Guardians, we were informed immediately. Under the cover of darkness, we took the poisoned carcass and burned it under the watchful eyes of the game scouts of MPT stationed close by.

Poison laced goat

Poison laced goat

The following morning, when the people returned and saw that the carcass had been removed and no lion was dead, tempers flared. After some discussion, they cooled down but still seemed determined to employ the same tactic in the future with the hope of eliminating these lions from their midst. The danger is not only in losing Nosioki, but in losing all five of these lions, who always stay together. Even now, as I finish writing this blog, we have just received a report that she has again killed another goat. The situation is under control because the goat was killed on our side of the border, but from the look of things, if Nosioki continues to kill livestock across the border, her days are clearly numbered.

Nosioki at sunset

Nosioki at sunset

Now, more than ever the Lion Guardians need your help.  By making a donation today you will help provide the funding the Lion Guardians need to expand to Tanzania and continue to protect these lions under their care.

Another Lion Is Killed In Tanzania

For several weeks , Kip (a collared male lion that lives around Amboseli N. P.) has terrorized Maasai bomas on the Tanzania border. After killing livestock in Tanzania on several consecutive nights, it was clear there was a predictable pattern.  He has been the target of several hunts but has luckily escaped unscathed.  However, the anger towards him increased ten-fold when, at one of these hunts, he retaliated and injured one Moran before escaping. In another hunt two bullets missed him by a whisker and he crossed back over into Kenya. Anger about his attacks did not decrease, despite the fact that he was no longer in the area. To these pastoralists, getting rid of problem lions is the only rational economic response to a costly nuisance. The lingering anger culminated last week with the death in Tanzania of an adult male lion who wasn’t Kip.

We suspect the lion killed was one of Tato's young males (the two lighter lions)

We suspect the lion killed was one of Tato's young males (the two lighter lions). Tato herself was killed in Tanzania in April.

Several lions went into a boma in Tanzania and killed a cow.  Kip’s previous incursions caused tolerance levels to reach their limits, so this cow’s death resulted in the morans organizing a lion hunt.  An adult male was killed, and the other lions got away. The dead male lion has yet to be identified but we believe that it may be a member of Tato’s pride – who are also usually resident in Amboseli park and whom many of you have most likely seen on your trips to Amboseli (Tato herself was killed earlier this year in Tanzania in a similar scenario).  The authorities in Tanzania were notified of this recent incident both before (when the hunt was being organized) and after (once the lion had been killed).

The dead lion after the trophies have been removed

The dead lion after the trophies have been removed

There exist different wildlife legal regimes in both countries:

The Tanzanian laws are tolerant of lion killing by community members and all that the community is required to do is to relay the information of the conflict to the relevant government authorities. Permission to kill the problem lion is granted provided community members bring back the lion trophies (teeth, paws, mane, skin and tail) to the authorities.

Kenya, owing to the critical position it finds itself with regards to rapidly decreasing lion numbers, has tight rules and regulations, and lion killing is not tolerated except in extreme situations.

However, we have been recording increasing numbers of  lion deaths in Tanzania through either poisoning or spearing, of lions usually resident in Kenya. There is an urgent need for solutions to be found and implemented along the Tanzanian/Kenyan border if further lion deaths are to be prevented. The recent cross-boundary community meetings (coordinated by the African Wildlife Foundation and attended by all the local stakeholders, including Lion Guardians, Big Life Foundation (through MPT and Honeyguide Foundation) ,Enduimet WMA,  TAWIRI, and KWS) concluded that conflict mitigation needs to be enhanced and tolerance levels towards lions improved or else very soon the entire Amboseli ecosystem will find itself without any lion population to talk about.

In July 2011, we began to expand the Lion Guardian program into southern Olgulului, an area where at least 12 lions had been killed in the first half of the year.  Since we began our expansion into that area, no further lions have been killed.  We would now like to expand our reach to the area south of the Kenya/Tanzania border.  Please do your part by helping to fund our expansion into this critical area. CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT LION GUARDIANS.  I, the Lion Guardians, and the fewer than 100 remaining adult lions in the area thank you in advance for your support!

New Kids On The Block

When Lion Guardian Noah from the Ol Donyo Wuas zone of Mbirikani came himself directly to our base camp to deliver his report personally, we knew immediately that he was excited about something.

He had found tracks of three young male lions just close to Ol Donyo Lodge and had followed them to the place where they had entered a lava flow. He knew that once the lions had entered the lava that they would be sleeping close by and we should come in a vehicle to try and see them once dusk set in. This particular report was of much interest to us as we have not heard of any group of three males travelling together throughout Mbirikani.

As dusk approached, we positioned ourselves and waited at the place where Noah expected the lions to be hiding. As the darkness grew, Noah suddenly pointed out a moving object, then another, and another; he had found them!

Thankfully they were very comfortable with our vehicle and allowed us to take photos to identify them. It turns out that this coalition of males are not individuals known to the Lion Guardian monitoring population. They may have been born and raised in a neighbouring group ranch or national park like Amboseli or Tsavo West.

.Young MalesYoung male 1Young Males 2
Young Male 2

This is very exciting news for the population of lions on Mbirikani as we do not document new lions very often and are happy to welcome young adults to the area. This movement will no doubt bring a new challenge to dominant males Kasayio and Lormanie whom currently own the territory around this area

Kasaiyo and Lormanie will have to defend their territory

Kasaiyo and Lormanie will have to defend their territory

It’s almost time for the 2nd Annual Lion Guardian Games!

Many of you will remember that last year we held the first ever Lion Guardian Games! We even made a reel of the highlights! Well it’s time to get excited! We are gearing up for the second Lion Guardian Games!!

As you may know we have Lion Guardians monitoring and conserving lions on three Group Ranches across the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem – Mbirikani , Eselenkei and Olgulului Group Ranches. These ranches combined are about 4,000km², and hold key habitats for the last remaining lions of southern Kenya. This Lion Guardian Games involve the coming together of all 30 Guardians from the three ranches, to meet and compete and celebrate their work together.

The 2010 Lion Guardian Games

The 2010 Lion Guardian Games

The Lion Guardians are all Maasai warriors, working in the own communities to monitor their lions and reduce any conflicts between the local people (and their livestock) and carnivores. The guys work extremely hard 6 days a week, and thanks to YOUR donations they are getting their wages paid, and tracking equipment, GPS units and supplies bought for their work

The Games involve competitions in all the skills of a Maasai warrior – spear throwing, singing, stick throwing, jumping, and even football (soccer)! Awards and are given out to the Lion Guardians who have performed well in their different lion conservation and monitoring duties over the year. The Lion Guardians had so much fun at last year’s games, that they have been eagerly awaiting the rematch. Now that they are familiar with the format, they have spent the year practicing practicing practicing! So it is going to be great fun!!

The teams discussing strategy

The teams discussing strategy

So now we need your help! We need $1,000 to make the Lion Guardian Games happen. This will be spent on prizes, food, transport, and accommodation for 30 Guardians . Please help us by making a donation; our suggested donation is $50, but if you would prefer to make a donation of a different amount, please do!

We are delighted that Kate Nicholls has already donated $100, and started the climb up our Lion Guardian Games thermometer! Thank you so much!

lion-guardian-games100.jpg

Let’s try and spread the word about the Lion Guardians Games and Awards, and get to the top as soon as we can!

The Lion Guardians having their morning chai

The Lion Guardians having their morning chai

Lenkai takes a practice shot

Lenkai takes a practice shot

The dramatic walk to the start of the games.

The dramatic walk to the start of the games.

Everyone looks on with bated breath.......Will this be the winning throw?

Everyone looks on with bated breath.......Will this be the winning throw?

Cubs, cubs, everywhere!

We are very excited!  We have just confirmed the 7th set of cubs under 6 months old within Lion Guardian areas!!!! That means that every adult female in our study area is currently with offspring! We’ve never documented such an occurrence before. It seems there is a lot of hope for the future!!! ladycub_thumb3
Nemasi moving one of her cubs to a new hiding spot Here is the breakdown: Nemasi has 3 small cubs about 6 months old, Mbalueni also has 3 small ones of the same age, Elikan has 2 five month olds, and Birdie, who lost the cubs we blogged about earlier this year to infanticide, now has new cubs as well! Also, Birdie’s two adult daughters, Nanyorri and Nembirbil, each have small cubs about 2 months old.Nosero-with-3-cubs

Even Selenkay has 3 one month old cubs stashed away right on the border of three group ranches. Selenkay is staying with the her small cubs, her two 18 month old  female cubs (recently named Neeki and Meoshi by the Lion Guardians), the new cubs’ father, Ndelie, and her sister Elikan. This group is moving between southern Eselenkei and western Mbirikani.

Neeki, Selenkay, Ndelie and Elikan

Neeki, Selenkay, Ndelie and Elikan

Lioness Nimaoi doesn’t have small cubs but she’s still with her two 20 month old cubs, a male named Len’gan’ga and a female named Neluai. Nimaoi is a favorite of males Kasaiyo and Lormanie so it shouldn’t be too long before she too may have some new cubs herself! Also, lioness Nosioki has 3 older cubs, but she is in a northern thick forested area called Osewan which is very difficult to access so we’ve been unable to see her for many months, but the Lion Guardians have been finding her tracks along with those of her cubs and the cubs’ father Pua Mederi. Lioness Nempakai also has 2 young cubs, but she has moved out of Lion Guardian areas and into the safety of Amboseli National Park.

You can check out Selenkay, Birdie, Ndelie and Nempakai’s movements at Abycats lion map.

Abycats Lion Movement Map

Abycats Lion Movement Map

You can see that the lionesses go out hunting every night, but always return to a central location. This is where the cubs are hidden away, while their mamas go hunting and looking for water.

We now have our work set out for us!  Our big challenge will be to try to keep the adult population as stable as possible – if any females are killed, we will lose their cubs as well. These cubs are dependent on their mothers for several years to help them learn how to hunt and protect themselves. Since we don’t have prides, there aren’t aunties around to help raise the cubs if the mothers are killed. Also, if any males are killed, this may result in new movements of males, which may lead to more cub infanticide which we saw earlier this year between Birdie’s young cubs and Sikiria.

A lioness unsuccessfully trying to protect her cubs ©Sara Blackburn

A lioness unsuccessfully trying to protect her cubs ©Sara Blackburn

LG Mushaga finding lions

LG Mushaga finding lions

The Lion Guardians are out there every day keeping track of the lions’ locations and helping prevent depredations and killings from occurring.  In order for this population to grow – these lion cubs are going to have to survive for at least another one and a half to two years. We need your support to help keep the Lion Guardian project running.  Please make your donation today.  Every little bit helps keep the Lion Guardians on the ground, monitoring and protecting these lions. We will keep you posted as all these new cubs grow and begin to explore the world around them!

An update from the LWL Mara Predator Project

While Eric is away, we thought you might enjoy some updates from the Living With Lions Mara Predator Project.  Click here to read the most recent MPP Blog.

Hey cub - haven't you ever heard of letting sleeping lions lie?

Hey cub - haven't you ever heard of letting sleeping lions lie?

Sikiria’s price of double courtship

Sikiria is one of our favourite collared lions with interesting movement patterns. He has travelled no less than 5,635 kms before settling in one area in Oltiasika. His area of choice has all the characteristic and positive factors for a lion’s permanent territory. It is abuzz with different prey species not to mention its proximity to a water source.

The other day when we went to look for Sikiria, we found him together with his brother close to the lava. But unlike his brother Oyayai, Sikiria was doing serious business. He was preoccupied with doing reproductive work with one of Birdie’s sub-adult females. Oyayai was happy playing second fiddle. These lions who seems to have claimed Oltiasika as a distant outpost of their territory had been prowling around for months, probably waiting for the girls in Birdie’s group to show they were ready.

This is because female lions can decide when they want to come on heat but once a male has decided he wants to mate, they don’t have much choice in the matter. There is usually a peculiar note in a female lion’s call when she is looking for a mate and it can be heard for miles. These girls have been roaring their availability in the lava close to Oltiasika and Sikiria seems to have heard their cry!

When we came back two days later, Sikiria was on it again but this time round with the second girl. But his body condition revealed more than intimacy, it showed that a physical confrontation took place.

Here is a picture of Sikiria.  Don’t be frightened by all the blood around his mouth – it is just because he was enjoying a very tasty meal and is a very messy eater!

Sikiria's injuries

Luckily, the cut is above the eye! But it sure was close!

He either fought with his brother over the second girl or with another lion. Clearly, he was badly injured in the eye in particular but still managed to maintain his usual composure. He was sickly, sleepy and weak.

Sikiria's overall condition doesn't look very good!

Sikiria's overall condition doesn't look very good!

We immediately knew this was his price for doubling up the sisters. Meanwhile, his brother looked okay but kept his distance. This physical confrontation is normal because the mating system in lions, is one in which intense direct aggression occurs among males for access to females.

Sikiria sharing a meal with Birdie's daughter Nanyorri

Sikiria holding hands w/ Nanyorri while he wines and dines her!