After the cows have gone
While the huge herds of invading Samburu and Pokot cattle have been occupying the commercial ranches of Laikipia, they have impacted on the future of Laikipia’s lion population in several ways. Firstly, the invading warriors have killed some lions directly. Secondly, they have killed many of the lion’s wild prey, either directly by shooting them or indirectly by stripping the area of grass. And thirdly, the invasions have provided the lions with a plentiful supply of weakened and poorly guarded livestock ‘meals’. While this may seem like a benefit, it is probably the greatest of the three threats to the future of Laikipia’s lions.
For most of Laikipia’s residents, the disappearance of the invading herds will represent a huge release in the pressure of survival but for lions it will also represent the disappearance of a stable source of food. Our normally well behaved Laikipia lions will have a double whammy to deal with; a habit of killing livestock coupled with a lack of wild prey.
Last year, the end of much smaller land invasions resulted in several, previously well-behaved lions, repeatedly and determinedly attacking ranch livestock enclosures. The high levels of tolerance on the commercial ranches, and the fact we were monitoring the lions closely using GPS collars, meant that we were able to keep all but one of those lions alive. This time, we will need to be even better prepared. See our posts on ‘Innovations’ to read more about how we are preparing for the period after the cows leave.