How to train a Lion Ranger Unit
During the first year of the Lion Rangers program, Lion Landscapes has been extremely busy training new Lion Ranger units in the area. As the program turns out to be in such demand, we have stretched our resources to train three more units than we set out to do in our first year. As a result we have eight Lion Ranger Units in Laikipia and we are currently fundraising to deploy one more Lion Ranger Unit as soon as possible.
The Lion Rangers program is part of the Coexistence Co-op, a partnership between Lion Landscapes and The Peregrine Fund, carried out in collaboration with Living With Lions, KWS and Laikipia Ranches and Conservancies. It is a holistic education, training and conflict management program designed to reduce livestock lost to carnivores and stop the retaliatory poisoning of wildlife.
The Lion Rangers program works to train and equip a unit of selected National Police Reserves on each property to prevent or respond quickly and effectively to incidences of human-carnivore conflict, including responding to cases of potential wildlife poisoning.
Training new Lion Rangers runs over four full days:
Day one aims to teach large carnivore identification and basic ecology, with lectures in the morning run by our dedicated Lion Landscapes training team. The afternoon then involves a game drive to help reinforce all that is taught in the morning. The curiosity and enthusiasm for new information among the recruits is always exciting. Often stories are swapped between recruits about their different experiences of large carnivores; many Lion Rangers are pastoralists and own livestock or have been herdsmen, meaning they are only too familiar with conflict between livestock and large carnivores.
Day two is comprised of conflict prevention and mitigation in the form of Livestock Husbandry and boma (protective livestock enclosures) advice. During the morning lessons, the rangers are taught how to maintain predator-proof bomas, and are given other effective livestock husbandry techniques that protect livestock from large carnivores. During the theoretical part of the day, we tackle the broader issues that contribute to conflict e.g. managing overall ecosystem health so there are enough wild prey for large carnivores. The group practises conducting compassionate conversations with community members facing conflict by using role-playing exercises so that both perspectives are really understood. This is then backed up by a practical session in the afternoon where the rangers practice giving advice on boma construction. We use a game to help them see the weakest points in a livestock boma that need improving. During the game a third of the group are night watchmen, another third sheep and the final third pretend to be lion who try to get into the boma and steal a sheep. Though this is always a lot of fun, the lessons learnt from thinking like a lion, and imagining how a lion would find the weakest points of a boma, really reinforces what is taught in the lectures.
Day three is the day we focus on data collection using the cybertracker plugin of SMART on smartphones. The day involves practising collecting data on all aspects of wildlife ecology, conflict incidences and other useful management information. The importance of collecting data that can inform conservation managers and help us all to improve our conservation activities is emphasised.
Day four is run by our partner, The Peregrine Fund. This final day focuses on the negative aspects of poison, how to identify it and respond to poisoning reports. The increasing use of poisons is mostly in response to livestock losses to lions in the region and poses a serious threat to lions, critically endangered vultures, all other scavenging mammals and birds, as well as to human and livestock health due to environmental exposure.
The Lion Ranger teams are then equipped with technologies (e.g. smart phones, binoculars, GPS and powerful torches) to assist them in theirconflict prevention role, and collect data monitored by our research team.
We now have eight Lion Ranger teams on different ranches and conservancies in Laikipia including Loisaba, El Karama, Mugie, Mpala, Ol Maisor, Lewa, Borana and Sosian.
If you have any questions about our Lion Ranger program please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any donation to our Lion Ranger Program is very much appreciated.
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