It’s incredible how few people know that Africa’s lions are disappearing. We hear a lot about the threats facing elephants and rhinos, but lions are quietly slipping away. Lions have declined by 90 <g data-gr-id="29">per cent</g> in just the last 75 years. One of the main drivers is <g data-gr-id="30">conflict</g> with people, primarily over livestock depredation. When lions attack livestock, pastoralists may retaliate and kill lions.
In Kenya, there are less than 2,000 lions – and yet Kenya is one of the best places to see lions. In Samburu National <g data-gr-id="41">Reserveseeing</g> lions within the spectacular arid landscape is unforgettable. Just outside the Reserve <g data-gr-id="44">are</g> community conservancies, where local communities live alongside wildlife.
These areas are not only worth visiting to experience the rich Samburu culture, but this is where the crux of lion conservation lies. Protected areas like national parks and reserves are not large enough for big cat populations to endure, so it’s critical for lions to be able to survive in community areas.
The Ewaso Lions project is promoting ways where local people can coexist with wildlife in northern Kenya. It was founded in 2007 by Shivani Bhalla, a <g data-gr-id="33">fourth generation</g> Kenyan of Indian <g data-gr-id="34">decent</g>. She knew from the beginning that a future for lions would be ensured only if local people were involved.
Rather than deciding what’s best for the lions and telling local people what to do (and what not to do), we take a different approach. Our strategy starts with asking local people what they want. Then we design conservation and research programmes that work for both people and lions.
For example, we recently started working with Samburu women to get them engaged in conservation – we call it Mama Simba. The women told us, “We want <g data-gr-id="37">education</g>.” So we set up a weekly schooling session. The women are learning how to read, write, and do arithmetic which will help them in their villages. In return, they are spreading a pro- wildlife conservation message to their families, and helping turn around negative attitudes towards lions and other carnivores.
You can also help the Ewaso Lions by visiting our website at www.ewasolions.org