Ewaso Lions (Kenya)

Africa’s lions are in trouble -- the lion population has declined by 90% in the last 75 years and lions have disappeared from approximately 80% of their historical range in Africa. This reduction in numbers is mainly due to habitat loss and conflict with humans, primarily over livestock depredation. Kenya’s lion population is now less than 2,000 individuals, and could be extinct in the next two decades. Ewaso Lions firmly believes that the success of lion conservation hinges on the involvement of local people who live among predators - the long-term survival of predators depends on finding ways people can coexist with their presence.

The Conservation Issue:

Habitat Loss
The conflict between wildlife and humans over diminishing resources is a problem throughout the African continent. Lion prides require a large home range, and in northern Kenya that means they live and travel across a variety of land use types: not just protected areas like national parks and reserves, but also community conservancies, public lands, and private ranches. A growing human population and the increase of livestock with it means that lions are competing with local communities and their animals for space and food. Overgrazing by livestock and poorly managed development can have a detrimental effect on lions’ wild prey and the health of their overall habitat, as well.

Human-Wildlife Conflict
The Ewaso Nyiro ecosystem of northern Kenya is one of the few areas in Africa where lions exist outside protected areas. Because of this, lions in this region are highly vulnerable as they come into regular contact with people who live in the area. Conflict occurs when lions attack livestock, and people retaliate for this economic loss by shooting, poisoning or spearing lions and other large carnivores.

The Ewaso Lions Solution:

Research and Monitoring: The project’s core research goals focus on understanding lion prides’ associations with each other and their movements in the wild, the extent of human-wildlife conflict in the area, and the impact of habitat loss. This information is used to formulate strategies for long-term lion conservation. Research activities include monitoring individual lions and pride associations, tracking with GPS collars to map lions’ movements across reserves and community lands, investigating incidences of human-wildlife conflict, monitoring populations of prey species, and measuring change in local attitudes toward wildlife and conservation.

Community Conservation Programs: An essential part of Ewaso Lions’ strategy is to promote coexistence between people and wildlife. The project provides education and helps build local capacity for wildlife rangers and community leaders. Community-Based Conservation programs include:

  • Warrior Watch, a peer-to-peer network of Samburu warriors who serve as wildlife ambassadors and first responders to lion conflict

  • Wazee Watch, engaging Samburu elders to leverage their influence in the community for conservation

  • Mama Simba, involving local women through conservation education, livestock protection training, beadwork enterprise (which helps families benefit from wildlife tourism), and litter removal

  • Predator awareness training for Lion Scouts and wildlife authorities

  • Supporting local schools by giving scholarships, donating books and supplies, and forming Wildlife Clubs for children

  • Lion Kids Camps, Wildlife Cinema events and safari trips for local children and adults

  • Lion Watch, using citizen science to assist lion conservation, inviting the tourism sector to participate in research through sharing photos and information about lion sightings

Oakland Zoo’s Role:

  • Grants: Oakland Zoo’s Conservation Grant has provided funds for Ewaso Lions.
  • Outreach and Education: Oakland Zoo connects to our public through docent tours and stations, special events and a variety of outreach and education programs with messages about lions and how to co-exist with them and conserve them.
  • Ecotours: Our ecotours to Kenya spend time with the Ewaso Lions project, gaining invaluable insight into the challenges facing both the human and wildlife populations in this part of Africa.

How You Can Help:

  • Email Amy Gotliffe to donate to Oakland Zoo’s funding efforts for Ewaso Lions. Your financial donation can help provide important lion monitoring equipment, food for the Warrior Watch program, camera traps, or salaries for the Lion Scouts. The project also welcomes donations of camp and field equipment, such as tents, rechargeable batteries and hand-held radios, as well as educational materials and supplies

  • If you are able to travel to northern Kenya, participate in the Lion Watch program

  • When travelling, always buy locally-made goods so that the local communities can benefit directly from the wildlife they live next to, and be inspired to protect it. For example, Ewaso Lions encourages Samburu women to develop unique beaded animals using their traditional skills - this gives the women an opportunity to gain income from wildlife-related tourism in their area. Projects like this also help local people to earn a livelihood without harming wildlife or their habitats

  • Visit Ewaso Lions’ website to see photos and learn more about the project

  • Learn more about lions and other big cats - at Oakland Zoo and around the world - and share what you have learned with others.

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