Happy Birthday, Lion Landscapes!
We have made it to four years old - thanks to all your support, hard-working teams and fantastic partners. This feels significant for us - although we still have a lot to learn, we feel like we are up and running, and looking forward to the years ahead.
Recently, we have been asked by Tusk for a contribution to Tusk Talk Magazine and we would like to share a couple of those insights with you here.
What successes and positive impact have you seen?
Lion Landscapes' biggest achievement has been to take real steps towards landscape-scale management of lions, and human-lion conflict. We have done this in Laikipia through our Coexistence Co-op initiative, run in partnership with The Peregrine Fund and key conservation land managers in the region. Within the co-op, we have co-developed our conservation programs so that they address the loss of livestock to carnivores and the resulting wildlife poisoning - the biggest threat to lions and vultures - in a fully integrated way. In Zambia we are able to impact large areas through partnering with Bio-carbon Partners (BCP) on the ‘Lion Carbon’ initiative. BCP is an African forest conservation company working to sustainably manage natural resources by linking payment to local communities in return for long term wildlife habitat protection agreements. Payments are generated through the sale of verified forest carbon offsets through an avoided deforestation mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).
Working with partners allows us to share resources and expertise, learn from each other's mistakes and find efficiencies in our efforts. For the same amount of funding, we are able to achieve much more. In the last year alone working with The Peregrine Fund and land managers in Laikipia we have provided training to nearly 800 community members (40% of whom were women), 130 predator-proof bomas (livestock enclosures) have been built and hundreds more have been strengthened, 8 new Lion Ranger units (45 Rangers) were trained, equipped and supported, and 100% of conflict events reported have been responded to. Working with BioCarbon Partners, 67 anti-poaching scouts have been trained, equipped, deployed and managed, and we have developed community based biodiversity monitoring plans for over 1 million hectares of threatened lion habitat.
Coordinated landscape-scale management in both the landscapes we work was wishful thinking 5 years ago but attitudes have changed. Land managers and conservation organisations realise that they are not effective enough working independently and the only way to tackle conservation challenges is through meaningful collaboration with other conservationists, enterprises, governments, and local communities who share the landscape with wildlife. 'Land Connected, Life Protected' is the motto of Loisaba Conservancy, one of Lion Landscape's key partners in Laikipia, and we agree. In reality, connecting land is all about connecting the groups of people who depend on that land with each other and with their wildlife. Building effective partnerships are key to the way Lion Landscapes works, and it is exciting to see meaningful collaboration becoming the accepted gold standard for conservation.
Another huge success is finding ways to scale-up collaboration through the Pride Lion Conservation Alliance; Pride members have joined forces, sharing experience, expertise and resources and working together as a united front to impact lion conservation on a meaningful scale. Pride continues to be a shining example of the power of true collaboration.
What, in your opinion, do the next 30 years hold for the species?
If we are going to still be talking about the conservation of viable populations of wild lions in 30 years time then the equation is simple; lions, their habitats and prey must be more valuable to African communities and governments than alternate land uses. It is not realistic to expect those with the least economic resilience to continue to bear all the costs of living with species like lions, elephants and rhinos. Likewise, we cannot expect people in lion range countries not to want better and better lifestyles. We need to be thinking of ways to conserve lion landscapes, and by that, I mean a landscape that supports people, large carnivores, their prey and habitat, in a continent that looks very different to how it looks today. In some ways this is very exciting; the numbers of people living in poverty are declining, as are child mortality rates and birth rates.
There is plenty to be hopeful about but there will be many challenges ahead. Lion landscapes by definition need to be BIG and all of us need to get realistic about what it costs to conserve enough of them to ensure that larger wide-ranging species like lions make it through the next 30 years. This is billions of US dollars, a huge amount for most of us individually but not so much when we look globally; the global cosmetic products market is estimated to be valued at US$ 69 billion in the year 2025. We can do it. We just need to value healthy ecosystems that can support people and wildlife, all the way up to the large carnivores, correctly. We also need to develop more mechanisms that allow those of us who value these big healthy ecosystems to pay for them. Payments for ecosystem services (PES) mechanisms, like the Lion Carbon initiative in Zambia, are starting to gain traction but we need a lot more, a lot faster, to make sure that lion landscapes are worth more to African people and governments than, degraded landscapes, intensive livestock farming and agriculture, or unplanned infrastructure developments.
Help us celebrate by taking part in our quiz and Q&A sessions on social media over the coming weeks. We would love to celebrate with as many people as possible so please share with friends and family.