To promote human-carnivore coexistence in Laikipia, last month Lion Landscapes launched the Lion Landscapes Ranger Program at Loisaba Conservancy. Laikipia is home to Kenya’s third largest lion population with almost 80% of these lions residing on commercial ranches and private conservancies. Livestock killing by large carnivores has increased in many parts of the region, after the recent drought and exposure to large numbers of weak and dying livestock. The Lion Landscapes Ranger Program will increase our capacity to respond to requests for help from livestock owners, reduce livestock lost to large carnivores and help restore coexistence between large carnivores and people.
The first Lion Ranger recruits, six National Police Reserves from Loisaba Conservancy, learnt all about how to coexist with large carnivores and how to help prevent human-carnivore conflict in their areas. These new recruits to large carnivore conservation will form a rapid reaction team, who respond quickly and effectively to incidences of human-carnivore conflict, poisoning or infectious diseases on Loisaba and in the neighbouring communities. By working with livestock owners and monitoring lion movements closely, Lion Landscapes Rangers will also try to pre-empt any human-carnivore conflict by warning livestock owners of the lions whereabouts and shadowing lions when they move into areas with high risk of conflict.
During the training, the six new Lion Rangers were taught about large carnivore ecology and behaviour, how to age and identify individual lions, how to protect livestock from attacks by large carnivores and how to respond to and help livestock owners who have lost livestock to large carnivores. They also learnt how to monitor collared lion movements and collect valuable research data. Part of the course involved having to think like a lion, conducting role plays on how a lion would approach and attack a livestock boma, and how best to prevent such an attack. After this exercise, they discussed what could be improved at each boma visited to prevent an attack by all large carnivores.
In collaboration with Living with Lions, The Peregrine Fund and others, we plan to expand this initiative over the next six months, increasing local capacity to reduce human-carnivore conflict, while promoting human and livestock health over the wider area. We would like to give special thanks to Loisaba Conservancy, Living with Lions and the Peregrine Fund for their collaboration on this effort and The Nature Conservancy, Tusk Trust and Houston Zoo for their generous funding.