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THE LION GUARDIANS
Our mission is to promote sustainable coexistence between people and lion using
cultural values, community participation and science.
The Lion Guardians approach involves recruiting young non-literate Maasai warriors to become actively engaged in protecting lions rather than killing them.
Enrolment in the Lion Guardians programme becomes a life-changing experience for these young Maasai, who have had no formal education.
Taught to read, write and communicate in Swahili and trained in wildlife management and conflict mitigation techniques, the Lion Guardians monitor lion movements, warn pastoralists when lions are in the area, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing and intervene to stop lion hunting parties. Collectively these efforts lead to a reduction in the loss of livestock, which in turn enhances the livelihoods of the local people and builds tolerance for lions and other carnivores. Most notably, these conflict mitigation efforts are founded on century-old traditional techniques and thus are easily understood and accepted by the community.
The Lion Guardians
The Lion Guardians project currently employs more than 40 Maasai warriors (morans) across 3 Group Ranches in the Amboseli-Kilimanjaro ecosystem – Mbirikani, Eselenkei and Olgulului, in Sinya in Tanzania’s Enduimet WMA and in Tanzania’s Ruaha ecosystem. The Lion Guardians is a non-profit organization and is entirely reliant on donations to fund the project and pay the Lion Guardians’ wages.
The cost of sponsorship is $100 US a month per Lion Guardian. Your donation will go towards the Lion Guardians’ salaries, equipment, and everything needed to keep the project running. Just think – it is only about $3/day, which can make a huge difference to the lives of both the remaining wild lions in this area and the local people that share their land with them.
WHERE THEY OPERATE
Lion Guardians was piloted in the Amboseli region of southern Kenya. The Amboseli ecosystem was an ideal site to test the efficacy of the program because of the prevalence of human-carnivore conflict and the strong cultural values of the Maasai towards their environment.
The program started on Mbirikani Group Ranch in 2007 and expanded to Northern Olgulului and Eselenkei Group Ranches in 2009 and,most recently, into Southern Olgulului Group Ranch in September 2010 in response to rampant lion killing earlier in the year.
They are now focusing on expanding the program to additional sites in Kenya and Tanzania.
WHAT DO THE LION GUARDIANS DO?
1) Monitor lions and other carnivores 2) Aid their communities by:
- informing herders when to avoid areas where lions are present
- improving livestock enclosures (bomas)
- helping herders find lost livestock left out in the bush
- providing education about the importance of carnivores and their conservation
3) Prevent further lion killing by deterring other murrans from carrying out lion hunts.
Guardian Sitonik mourns the poisoning of lioness Nosioki. She was the favourite lion of Sitonik and to many of the Guardians who monitored her. On this day, Nosioki and her two cubs had stumbled across seven dead sheep which had been killed by hyenas.
They scavenged the carcasses which had been laced with poison by the angry livestock owners. Moments later they were dying, along with other scavengers including eagles. Miraculously, one of the two cubs managed to avoid eating any of the poison and escaped the incident unharmed.
Lion Guardians across the ecosystem play an essential role in monitoring carnivores. They conduct weekly spoor surveys for density of predators and their prey, monitor lions in their areas using GPS units and telemetry receivers, and assist in lion hair and scat collection for DNA analysis.
Every Guardian has a mobile phone which is used to report any sightings of lions or illegal activity. All lions have been given Maasai names by the Guardians, greatly increasing lion awareness in the broader community by personalizing each lion, making it easier to identify them.
The Lion Guardians are provided with comprehensive and rigorous field training. They are taught basic literacy, data forms, conflict mitigation techniques, GPS and telemetry tracking of radio collared lions. (GPS training shown left.)
The more experienced Lion Guardians have proven instrumental in bringing the newly employed Guardians up to speed on the protocols through participatory training. As the program expands, the tenured Lion Guardians will carry out training of the new Lion Guardians in Tanzania.
Given that the Guardians come from the communities in which they work, and are older murrans (many have also killed lions in the past) they are very well respected by their communities and can assuage a tense situation when angry warriors seek revenge for their dead cow.
Young male lion, Lormeut, lies dead after being killed by spear in an area outside of the LG project's jurisdiction. Over 30 spear wounds riddle his body. He managed to injured 3 warriors in his last moments before dying. The Maasai warriors retaliated after Lormeut had killed livestock in a boma (homestead). A non-Maasai tribe took parts of his body to eat, like the heart, kidney and fat which lay on the forehead and neck. They also took his tail, claws and teeth.
OUR SPONSORED LION GUARDIAN
“Mingati” is a lion name given to him by his age mates
because of his bravery.
Area of work: Olbili, Mbirikani Group Ranch
As of March 2013 Linton Zoo proudly sponsors “Mingati Makarot” from the Mbirkani Group Ranch, paying his salary for an entire year. We are able to do this thanks to donations from you, our visitors, during our keeper talks, animal encounters, big cat meet and feed sessions and other fund raising activities.
Mingati has been very effective in monitoring lions like Lormanie, Kasayo, Nemasi and several others that frequent his zone. He is good at tracking lions using his traditional skills and has a great knowledge of the area that acts as a refuge to many wildlife species.
Mingati is a past lion killer but, like other Lion Guardians, has completely converted to being one of their ardent protectors.
At the 2009 Lion Guardian Games, Mingati won the spear throwing competition in the accuracy category. At this year's games he won "Beyond the Call of Duty" award: he organized fellow Lion Guardians to venture into conflict prone areas beyond the jurisdiction of the project in search of a collared lion who had gone missing for months (and found him!), took the lead on training new LGs in his zone, held multiple project meetings at his home, and stopped multiple hunting parties.
In October 2013 we begun sponsorship of a second Lion Guardian 'Gisa Nkasumani'.
We will post more information about Gisa as it becomes available.
We are members of the following: