World Lion Day is celebrated on the 10th August every year in order to raise awareness of the struggles lions face in the wild, and celebrate the conservation efforts that are helping to protect and save wild lion populations from extinction.
Last year, we held a celebration at Loisaba’s Conservation Centre for all our stakeholders and lion rangers in order to explain our recent research and exciting results, and to thank our partners, lion rangers, and funders for their dedicated support. This year, we were hoping to celebrate our work with all our local partners and stakeholders again but the numbers of dedicated people we partner or collaborate with, and who are essential to the ongoing success of carnivore conservation in Laikipia, are great and this will have to be postponed until we can all safely gather.
Although we are not able to celebrate together as planned, we are proud to share with you the activities that are still ongoing despite Covid-19, and include you in our conservation efforts!
How can you help to celebrate World Lion Day?
Our Lion Rangers are vital in protecting wild lions and promoting human-carnivore coexistence. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of building local capacity to carry out conservation work and the Lion Rangers provide a great example of a program that is locally embedded and able to continue operations throughout the global pandemic. There are challenges, however, the biggest being a complete cessation of income through tourism, Zoos and events, which provides vital support for Ranger activity in Laikipia. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lion Rangers are having to work harder to protect wildlife and local livelihoods with less resources and lower salaries.
We are very proud that Laikipia’s Lion Rangers are taking part in the pan-African Wildlife Ranger Challenge organised by Tusk. This is a multi-million-pound fundraising initiative to support the men and women across Africa’s protected areas who are enduring drastic cuts in salaries and resources due to the devastating economic impact of Covid-19 and yet are still working tirelessly to safeguard the continent’s iconic wildlife.
On 3rd October 2020 up to 50 ranger teams spanning the African continent will unite to compete in a half marathon race carrying their typical 25kg backpack and equipment - building camaraderie and raising awareness of the hardship currently faced by those in their profession.
Our Lion Rangers Team will be undertaking their half marathon race in Laikipia, home to Kenya’s third largest lion population, consisting of more than 300 lions!
Please donate to the team’s efforts and help keep our Lion Rangers in the field!
Every dollar that our team raises via our JustGiving page will attract an additional 25% match from the Scheinberg Relief Fund. Furthermore, they will donate the equivalent of 75% of the amount each project raises to the Tusk Ranger Fund so additional grants may be made to those protected areas deemed most in need, doubling the overall impact of your contributions. Whether it is a donation of $20 or $1000, your contribution is not only directly supporting the Lion Rangers - you are also helping to unlock vital funds for other Ranger teams across Africa.
Save Wild Lions, Promote Coexistence, Support our Lion Rangers.
Five prides now collared across Laikipia in our Collaring for Coexistence Program
We are also excited to resume our Collaring for Coexistence program i.e. the collaring of lion prides that are frequently killing livestock in community areas. This program deploys satellite collars on lion prides, which provide real-time lion movement maps via a mobile phone App developed by Save The Elephants. This allows livestock owners to keep their livestock away from lions, and Lion Rangers to act quickly to prevent conflict when lions move into high risk areas. This program is extremely popular with both community and commercial livestock owners but was on hold until government changes in permit allocations were completed. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has now renewed our permit, specifically to help with the overwhelming conflict in certain communities. Technology allowing this kind of remote sensing and information sharing between conservation organisations and local stakeholders is ideal during COVID-19. We have successfully collared four new lion prides in the last few months with immediate positive feedback from livestock owners, and our goal is to bring the total number of lion prides collared and monitored to ten in the next 12 months. All collaring is done with permission and support from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Collar map of all the lions across Laikipia
We know from experience that real-time data from lion collars helps foster coexistence between lions and people in the following ways:
It provides the basis for our ongoing research efforts to reduce human-lion conflict
It warns Lion Rangers and livestock owners when a lion moves into a potentially dangerous area and allows a quick response before conflict occurs.
It allows Lion Rangers to keep livestock owners informed of lion movements so they are able to keep livestock away from lions or increase efforts to guard their livestock.
Real-time information about the lives of lions helps all stakeholders to feel engaged with the lions they share their landscape with. Getting to know individual prides in such detail fosters understanding and tolerance.
Narok is the oldest lioness that we monitor in Laikipia. She is now 17 years old - two years older than the natural lifespan of a lioness in the wild. She has had many cubs over her lifetime, and the Narok pride is made up of her daughters, granddaughters and their descendants. Narok’s age and experience makes her an extremely valuable member of her pride and she is supported in her older age by the younger members of her pride, who now do the majority of the hunting. Narok is still a formidable predator but with age, a lion’s teeth naturally wear down - making it harder to hunt wild prey species. This means that older lions like Narok are prone to hunting livestock and causing conflict with local communities. Narok has been collared multiple times in her lifetime with support from Loisaba Conservancy and KWS, and now wears a satellite GPS collar that allows the Lion Rangers to keep track of her movements and warn community livestock herdsmen to avoid areas where she is resting. This careful monitoring will help Narok survive for more years to come.
Jangili means “thief” in Kiswahili. When he was first reported to us, he was a desperately skinny lion close to starvation who had killed 11 camels in one night in an uncharacteristic feeding frenzy. He was fitted with a GPS satellite collar with the support of KWS and Mpala Ranch. Since we fitted this collar, our Lion Rangers have been carefully monitoring his movements and working with local livestock owners to make sure he stops his ‘thieving’ livestock behaviour. Jangili is now a strong and healthy lion, who has found another male to form a coalition. Coalitions are normally formed between related lions who grow up together as cubs in the same pride but some lions, like Jangili, can find their coalition partners later in life. Jangili’s coalition partner has since been named Zion, and together they have been successfully killing wild prey including zebra, buffalo and oryx. Jangili has not been stealing any more livestock and is coexisting peacefully with the pastoral people he shares his home range with. We continue to keep a close eye on Jangili to make sure he keeps out of trouble.
Erica is a lioness who was collared on the 30th of May 2020. Erica spends her time on Ol Maisor Ranch in Northern Laikipia. She is a shy lioness who has spent her life afraid of humans. This fear of people is a survival mechanism, allowing lions to avoid people and livestock whilst living among them, but it also makes collars vital to understanding these elusive lions’ movements and behaviours. Erica was thought to be a lioness who was killing a lot of livestock in neighbouring communities and she was collared with support from Ol Maisor ranch and KWS to keep track of her location and warn herdsmen of her whereabouts. Immediately after being collared, Erica gave birth to three cubs who she keeps perfectly hidden in thick bush on Ol Maisor Ranch. She can't wander too far from her cubs when she hunts while they are small, and so she hasn't strayed back into the community in recent weeks. However, as the demands of her cubs grow and they become more mobile, Erica may well be tempted to hunt livestock again.
Dawn is a lioness who was collared on Sosian Ranch in collaboration with KWS and Sosian Ranch. Dawn is a very strong lioness who spends her time with another female who currently has young cubs. Dawn was initially collared as she was one of the females recognised to be causing a lot of conflict with the communities bordering Sosian Ranch. Since she was collared, she has only visited the community once, and was immediately followed by Sosian Ranch based Lion Rangers. She quickly returned and has since spent her time on Sosian Ranch, Suyian Ranch and Ngorare Ranch. She has an incredible ability to hide and so tracking the movements of her small pride without a collar would be impossible. In July 2020, Laikipia experienced torrential storms and the rivers burst their banks. Dawn has shown us that lions can cross amazing obstacles as her collar tracks her movements across the Ewaso Narok, a giant river that feeds into the Samburu. Like Erica, as the cubs of her pride mate grow and become more mobile, the temptation to visit the neighbouring community and kill livestock will likely increase and so careful monitoring remains important.
Felix is a young male lion. Young males leave their maternal pride when they reach approximately 3 years of age to start a difficult period of dispersal. During this time, young males do not have the support of their maternal pride mates and also have little experience of their own. Normal activities such as hunting are harder without the rest of the pride, and this is made harder still by the need to avoid older territorial males. Young dispersing male lions often band together with brothers, cousins or unrelated lions of a similar age to form nomadic coalitions. This helps them to survive the dispersal period but also helps them to take-over and hold a territory of their own once they are mature enough. These young, bold and inexperienced male coalitions commonly make the rash decision to kill livestock, and need careful monitoring to guide them through to becoming fully mature territorial males with a new pride of their own. Felix is a fine member of just such a coalition, who appear to be settling in the Loisaba Conservancy area but still spend time in the neighbouring communities. Felix is often seen with 2 or 3 other males of a similar age to him, and who are probably brothers or cousins. This handsome group is being carefully monitored with the help of a satellite collar, and unlike Dawn and Erica, are happy to show themselves and be admired posing against the beautiful Loisaba Conservancy backdrop.
Look out for our next newsletter where we will tell you more about how you can support our collared lion prides directly and learn much more about their amazing lives!