The beginning of 2010 marked an extremely difficult time for our Lion Guardians. First, a prolonged devastating drought wiped out over half of the herbivore population – both domestic and wild. Livestock, which are the backbone of the Maasai economy, were drastically reduced by both the drought and the subsequent diseases which affected the survivors once the rains did come. The lions fared quite well during the drought, as they didn’t even have to hunt for their food – wildebeest, zebra and other prey species were dropping dead everywhere from starvation. This widespread loss of wildlife brought about an imbalance between predators and plains game. The few remaining primary prey species that were strong enough to survive the drought left the area as soon as the rains came. And those that stayed were strong enough that lions found it hard to find them and bring them down. As a result, the Lions therefore targeted livestock, as they were much easier prey. The Maasai pastoralists meanwhile vigorously guarded their remaining livestock, each of which had become tenfold more valuable as a result in the drastic reduction in herd size; conflict was clearly inevitable. Our Lion Guardians found themselves with a dual mission – they had to protect livestock from being killed by lions as well as defend lions from being killed by Maasai Morans in retaliation.
Even though their physical and mental strengths were tested to the limit, our Lion Guardians performed extremely well in 2010! With the help of other stakeholders within the Amboseli ecosystem, the Lion Guardians managed to stop over 44 lion hunting parties, most of which would have resulted in lion deaths had they not been stopped. Also, the Lion Guardians helped find 4,808 of the 5,635 lost livestock reported to them, most of which would have been killed overnight in the bush by predators if not found…deaths which would have no doubt resulted in further retaliation by the pastoralists. This translate to an 85% success rate, an impressive figure by any standard! The Lion Guardians also helped fortify over 100 bomas visited by carnivores at night, part of our effort to increase communal tolerance towards lions. In addition to creating lion protection “buffer zones”, the Lion Guardians also help create conservation awareness while acting as teachers of better animal husbandry within their communities.
Another major highlights of 2010 is that, with the help of our donors, we were able expand our Lion Guardians’ coverage to southern Olgulului, a conflict-prone zone that saw tens of lions being killed in the start of 2010. We recruited 5 new Lion Guardians and since they have started, not one lion has been killed in this stretch of land that is reknown for lion killing.
Also in 2010, we successfuly held the first ever Lion Guardian Games. Click here to read about it and click here to see a video of the games’ highlights. And now, at the end of an extremely productive year, to show the Lion Guardians our appreciation of the hard work they have done, we are providing each Lion Guardian with a D.Light S 250 solar lantern/phone charger. They will be able to use their lanterns in their searches for lost livestock as well as to provide illumination in their homes at night – rather than having to use smoky paraffin lanterns.
Please help us cover this and other important project related expenses such as salaries, phone credit and fuel. If each person that follows us via our blog or Facebook donated even $10, we would be able to cover the annual salaries of 8 Lion Guardians! Please help us to continue our work – your support makes the difference! Click here to donate (make sure to specify Lion Guardians)!
We would like to take this opprtunity to wish all our friends a prosperous Happy New Year and we look forward to your continued support in 2011!
All the best from Eric and the Lion Guardians