Something you might not expect from dedicating your life to lion conservation is how little you actually get to see a lion.
Lions have adjusted to survive in the un protected, human-dominated landscapes we work in by becoming even more elusive. We are ‘watching’ but mostly the fascinating GPS maps that download from their collars each morning, showing us the intimate details of where they have been and what they have likely been doing. We also see the signs they leave behind them, a footprint in the dust, a pungent black dollop of tar like dung, a slowly drying blood patch, stomach contents and bone fragments that indicate that lions were right there. We are also fast to react to the other things lions sometimes leave behind, the angry or frightened people who have had livestock stolen from them quietly while they sleep, or amidst desperate attempts to stop their panicking livelihoods thundering off into the dark. Despite the intensity of the moments when lions do bless us with a red-blooded sighting, the most remarkable thing about lions in unprotected areas (unlike popular tourist destinations, where lions are relaxed around people and often easy to see) is all the times we don’t see the lions that are there. The many, many times those huge and powerful animals completely elude the people all around them.
2017 was a tough years for lions and people in our study area in Laikipia but because of donors like The Lion Recovery Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Tusk Trust, Pride and many generous individuals, Lion Landscapes is starting 2018 with exciting new projects and partnerships; from developing wholistic approaches to managing lion-human coexistence (Collaring for Coexistence, Lion Landscapes Scouts - Laikipia) to playing a key role in creating a new, sustainable way of supporting the conservation of lions, their prey, and their habitat (Lion Carbon - Zambia). We are also helping partners to develop new and innovative ways of protecting livestock (Predator Protection Devices, Boma Shield), and of course we are always continuing the research required to support and verify our conservation activities through our affiliation with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, and our collaboration with the University of California Santa Cruz.
We think 2018 is going to be a good year for lions, and the people who share their Landscape with them. We hope 2018 is a good year for you too. If you don’t see a lion in the wild this year, know we are working hard to ensure they are still out there for you to see one day.