Tag Archives: porini

Lions give sight back to many!

The recently concluded eye clinic conducted on Eselenkei and Olgulului Group Ranches of Amboseli was very successful! The clinic, sponsored by Kenya Wildlife Trust and MEAK, in conjunction with the Lion Guardians program and tourism partners Gamewatchers Porini camp and Tortilis camp, was a benefit provided to people from both Group Ranches for their tolerance of lions, in particular, and other wildlife species, in general.

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An acknowledgement letter with signatures and thumbprints of the patients who attended the eye clinic.

Phase One of the event was a screening process where a team of eye doctors traveled to several sites within both group ranches and treated over 500 patients with a variety of less invasive methods such as administering eye drops. These initial screenings led to Phase Two where more than 50 patients received much-needed eye surgery to correct more severe ailments at the eye clinic held in southern Olgulului. Before each patient was treated, they were asked to sign a letter acknowledging that they understood that the treatment and benefits they were about to receive, were because of their tolerance of lions and peaceful coexistence with wildlife.

Even though this was the first event of its kind for all the participating organizations, the smooth and organized manner in which it was conducted left many amazed and inspired. But by far the most inspiring outcome of the clinic was the beaming smiles on the faces of patients, the majority of whom got their sight back after years of blindness or partial blindness! Women, men, young, old, educated, and not, were all welcomed and operated on by professional doctors at the Esiteti Primary School where two classrooms had been transformed into a hospital ward.

Moonka Olting’idi, now 62 years old, was a true Maasai warrior in his youth. He had killed a record nine lions to prove his bravery. But for the last four years, Moonka had become completely blind and in fact, had to be led around by one of his children. After the operation, as his face creased into smiles, he happily announced that he could see the foot of Mt.Kilimanjaro which was almost 20 kilometers from where we were! He then added ‘I regret having killed lions in the past, but now I will pass the message to my children never to kill lions again because they have given me my sight back’. (Watch this video of Moonka talking about how Lions gave him his sight back)

Linkoe Orkolui, a young pupil at Loirero Primary School, had a cataract in her right eye that made it very difficult for her to read anything written on the blackboard. This impacted negatively on her general performance in school. Amid many fearful tears and after much persuasion, Linkoe underwent the cataract removal surgery. Once the bandages were off, her tears turned into an unforgettable smile and Linkoe immediately joined the pupils in Esiteti Primary to exercise her reading prowess.

These are just two of the many inspiring stories we heard from patients that were treated at the eye clinic.

On one of the days, the patients and pupils gathered in a darkened classroom-turned-theater to watch the Lion Guardians film during their lunch-hour.They all enjoyed it so much that we played it twice as more and more people gathered to see the film and be part of the excitement.

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Patients, teachers, students and doctors gathered to watch the Lion Guardians film

The manner in which the Lion Guardians program, Kenya Wildlife Trust, MEAK, Tortilis, and Gamewatchers handled their respective responsibilities left many community leaders and other stakeholders in awe. The organizations also received a lot of appreciation from patients, their relatives, and all community members who witnessed the successful outcome of the operations.

In the next couple of days, a follow-up team will visit all patients that were treated to remove stitches from trachoma patients, assess their condition, and attend to any other eye related problems. We will continue to update you with inspiring stories as more community members begin to “see” the benefits that come from peacefully coexisting with lions!

Our new area!

We would like to tell you about the area that our new research and Lion Guardians camp is based. The local Maasai Group Ranch is called Eselenkei, which is communal land owned by the Maasai, mainly used for grazing livestock. This map shows you the ranches around Amboseli National Park, which is near to the border with Tanzania in the south of Kenya.

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Some 15,000 acres of this land have been leased by Porini Ecotourism, a non-profit company, to create the Selenkay Conservancy, an extremely successful wildlife reserve, which not only protects the flora and fauna in this important wildlife dispersal area around Amboseli National Park, but also helps the local communities by creating employment, as well as many other benefits including helping to build schools, sponsor local children through tertiary education, creating boreholes to provide fresh water, and enabling controllable grazing within the conservancy during times of great need, like the recent drought the local people have been facing here.

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Gamewatchers Safaris owns and runs a tented safari camp for tourists called Porini Camp on the conservancy, which generates income and employment opportunities for the local community, and pays a fee to Porini Ecotourism to cover the running costs of the conservancy.

In partnership with the local Maasai communities, Porini Ecotourism and Gamewatchers Safaris use the available community resources to improve and provide alternative source of livelihood in an area with no previously obvious tourist attraction where the local community depended only on livestock rearing for a living. We would like to extend our thanks to Porini, and to the local Maasai community for welcoming us into the area.

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We are very glad to be working in an area where the local communities are excited and willing to help with further conservation measures here, and we have some more great news about lions in the area! Keep reading for updates on our local lions and how the Lion Guardians project is getting young warriors involved in helping conserve the lions in their areas, and reduce human-wildlife conflict.

Searching for lions

On our last night at Eselenkei conservancy we went on a search for lions before heading back to Mbirikani Group Ranch. We had been told various times by the guys at the camp that lions could be seen easily, even though none of them have collars. We started our search at around 9.30pm and the first animal we saw was a genet. It was a bit shy so we could only see the long round tip of its tail and the elongated snout. I have posted a picture of a friendly genet that comes and sits in our office so you can see what they look like. (This one likes eating biscuits)!

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After just a few metres we saw a serval cat. She was in the process of hunting and due to the long grass we could not see the prey. We proceeded along to find our lion. Wilson Kasaine who was the spotter guide saw some movement and we stopped. Just 200 meters ahead was a female lion. In the distance we could see some wildebeest and zebras running away. Within a second she disappeared. The guys knew their way around the place well, so we drove around the thick bush. After about 10 minutes we saw her lying down, trying to master the movement of her prey.

One of the guides happened to know a little bit about this lioness, who they think has some cubs of her own. She is the only survivor from her litter – her three siblings were killed three years ago on Eselenkei, and her mother has only been seen once after the killing of the other cubs.

The thing that surprised me the most was that this lioness is not scared of cars. She came right up close to the car, something lions on Mbirikani will never do. They are so shy that we are never able to get close to them.

Just a reminder – if you want us to send you a gift certificate, you must request one in a comment on the blog as well as giving the donation. A big thank you to everyone who has bought a certificate so far. There is still time, if you want a gift certificate!

New location for Lion Guardians

We are in the process of establishing a new camp on Eselenkei group ranch, where we are going to start the Lion Guardians program. I have just been to visit Eselenkei, to see the place that we will be locating our camp, and we were very lucky to be able to stay at nearby Porini. Porini is a tented camp for tourists located north of Amboseli National Park. It is one of those amazing natural places that you would want to visit on vacation. It is located in a protected area of bush full of wildlife. Birds like the White bellied Go Away bird entertain you as you have your breakfast, and the views are beautiful.

We were treated like VIPs by the staff at Porini. I will never forget the hospitality of the guys I met, and I wish that I could have met them earlier. If I had, my life would have been more fun filled! I am very much looking forward to expanding the Lion Guardians to this new area.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, but to see some photos of this beautiful place you can go to the Porini camp website.