We are delighted to share that two lions, Ronnie and Ian, have successfully been collared on Mpala and Sosian. Prior to collaring, they had attacked and killed numerous livestock on both ranches and local communities, resulting in building anger towards lions in general.
Collaring a lion is no easy feat and so this is an incredibly exciting update; we have been playing hide and seek with the elusive Ian for over a year! Read on to discover the field stories from the day and the positive impacts their collarings are already having.
The Collaring of Ronnie on Mpala
The coalition of Ronnie and his brother Reggie has been hassling the livestock on Mpala and the surrounding communities for a long time. Since September 2020, we know of at least 12 cattle and calves (including a breeding bull) and 4 sheep who were killed by them. It is possible they were also the cause of the incident last August when a lion became trapped in a boma (livestock enclosure) and killed 34 sheep. There are likely more livestock killed by these lions that have not been reported; the loss has already cost thousands of US dollars and is a significant amount for livestock owners in Kenya to bare.
To prevent further human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and safeguard the lions from retaliatory killing, Mpala were granted permission by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to dart and collar, with the collar provided by Lion Landscapes. After waiting for the perfect moment for weeks, on the 3rd of May, they struck again on Mpala and killed a community member's camel. As a dead camel meant the lions might stay in one place long enough to get the teams together, this was our perfect opportunity to get the collaring done!
Out of the two males, we chose to dart and collar Ronnie as he had a slight injury on one of his legs, so we could check the injury and collar him at the same time (although no intervention was required as it was just a sprain). Thanks to the excellent collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service and Mpala, it was an extremely easy and successful collaring.
Dr. Dominic Mijele and his team from KWS first darted Ronnie with a perfect shot. Lion Landscapes worked alongside Mpala and their excellent research team at the scene to coordinate the capture. After recording his details and weight, Mpala were able to keep an eye on Ronnie post collating to make sure he was protected until he had completely recovered from the drugs.
The Collaring of Ronnie. Photo by Tim Collins. Since the collaring, Mpala Research Centre and Wildlife Foundation have been continually monitoring Ronnie, using the mobile tracking app, and the two brothers have been doing very well. In the 2-weeks since Ronnie’s collaring, two potential HWC incidents have been averted using the GPS movement data. Last Sunday, the pair moved into a point that intersected with the route cattle use to go to a dam to drink. With that information, Mpala were able to warn the herders and have vehicles move through the area to chase the lions away before cattle arrived. Without the collar, the lions would have almost certainly attempted to attack one of the herds, as ambushing animals as they come to drink is a classic lion hunting strategy. Saving just 1 adult cow has huge impacts, with a cash value of ksh 60,000 ($550) each.
Ronnie waking up after the collaring. Photo by Tim Collins.
Map showing Ronnie's most recent movements.
The Collaring of Ian on Sosian In memory of conservation hero Ian Lemayan.
Ian and Jasiri are another coalition of notorious livestock killers living in close proximity to people on ranches and within communities. The pair are true escape artists; slightly aggressive, extremely shy and very cunning. Over the course of the year, we have found them many times and been prepared to collar, only for them to disappear before a vet could be mobilised. There has been a lot of effort and resources used to collar one of these males. Besides Kenya Wildlife Service who is responsible for the collaring, it has taken two Lion Ranger teams (Sosian and Ol Maisor), plus Lion Landscapes’ Thomas Mojong working together to achieve this.
The teams searching for Ian and Jasiri. Photo by Tim Collins. For once, all the stars aligned. After a 13 hour day, traversing through extremely tricky terrain of thick bush and rocks, and moving from one ranch to another, we finally managed to catch and collar one of the two males. He has since been named by Sosian’s donor as ‘Ian’ in memory of the late conservation hero Ian Lemayan. Captain Ian Lemaiyan sadly passed away in February after the aircraft he was piloting crashed in Nanyuki.
Lion Ian before collaring. Photo by Tim Collins Collaring Ian would have not been possible without the true determination displayed by Dr Michael Njoroge and his team, who travelled from Samuru to Sosian at 4am after working late the previous day to save an elephant. They spent the whole day trying to dart Ian, eventually managing to dart him at 6:46pm, and moved on the next morning to help rescue a grevy’s zebra. We are incredibly thankful for all the dedication and continued hard work from KWS, Sosian, Mpala and all of our partners on the ground.
Ian's recent movements on Ol Maisor
Understanding the behavioural ecology and demography of lions
Collaring lions is important for protecting livestock from lions, and preventing the retaliatory killing of lions. It is also important because it helps us to try and understand the behavioural ecology and demography of lions in the area. Collaring is not a solution on its own, however. Our teams continue to work hard on a daily basis to monitor lions using the collars, better protect livestock and mitigate conflict. To learn more about our research projects on young adult dispersal and energetics living in human-dominated landscapes, visit our Research page.
Lion Landscapes. Stop the Loss. Reduce the Cost. Unlock the Value.