During a particularly exciting week, Lion landscapes were involved in the final stages of field testing of the new Land Rover Defender aka 'Hero' on the Borana-Lewa landscape. Thomas Mojong, our Lion Rangers leader and I were part of the team that took the new Defender to find and collar a male lion - aptly named Defender - as part of our Tusk funded Collaring for Coexistence program. Two new satellite GPS collars were kindly donated by Land Rover. Real-time data from these collars, accessible to local livestock owners via a mobile phone app, allow Lion Landscapes, Lion Rangers and Lewa-Borana staff to closely monitor lion movements, and keep people and livestock away from known lion locations.
Collaring Defender was successful but challenging; like the Land Rover itself, Defender the lion did not pay much heed to rough terrain and it took 4 days of tracking through thick bush and rocks to catch up with him, with a tummy full of Zebra. The KWS vet Dr Matthew Mutinda tranquilised the lion and our team moved him to a safe, shaded spot to fit the collar and check his general health. Moving a 300kg male lion took twelve people and a lot of grunting! Dr Mutinda then administered the reversal drugs and we all watched with smiles as a sleepy Defender woke up and walked off into the bush with his newly fitter satellite GPS collar. His movements are now carefully monitored, and teams standing by to respond should he move near livestock or into areas where the risk of conflict with people is high.
The Land Rover film clip has helped us reach new audiences who were not yet aware that lion are in trouble. This, combined with Tusk Trusts #YearoftheLion, has allowed us to highlight the plight of the lion. As Charlie Mayhew, Tusk Trust’s CEO pointed out “We have less Lion in the world then we have Rhino, that's a pretty shocking inditement”. Conservation organisations like us are working on the ground with local people to secure a future for African lions, but we have clearly not done a good job of making the world aware of the problem. Since the release of the Land Rover footage, multiple stakeholders and supporters have reached out to express their surprise at how few lions are left on the planet.
Stopping the loss of lions is a challenge that has to be addressed here and now. Lions can only thrive where they have value to African people and governments, and so the costs of living with lions have to be minimised, and any cultural or economic value with protecting lions and intact ecosystems needs to be realised. Big challenges can only be overcome by working together. The new Land Rover Defender video has taken a step in the right direction by helping the world to know - there are only 20,000 lions left in the wild today. If you care about this then spread the word and support a reputable lion conservation organisation like Lion Landscapes, Pride Lion Conservation Alliance, Tusk Trust or The Lion Recovery Fund.
Watch the Land Rover Defender final field test film clip here, starring Defender the lion, Tusk, Borana Conservancy, Lewa, Kenya Wildlife Service and Lion Landscapes!