The tension was palpable in the air as the Ngorongoro Lion Guardians project team stepped out of their vehicle. They were there to attend a community meeting after a young lion injured in a fight with another lion had been killed by three warriors. The community was desperate to make amends but nervous that the rule of law would further alienate these warriors. However, the Ngorongoro Lion Guardians project team had a different purpose – they wanted to work with the community and understand why brave warriors would kill a lion, a lion that was already weak and dying? More so a lion protected by one of their own?
The first to speak about this problem were the wazee (elders) and they offered their sincere apologies for the act. Next the warriors who had killed the helpless lion stood up to apologize and asked for forgiveness from the community and the project.
What followed next amazed all of us – for the first time in the history of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the community decided to impose heavy fines on the three warriors (Tshs 100,000 each – equivalent to the value of a large goat). The warriors, accepting that they were in the wrong, paid the fines. The community, elders and youths alike, also promised that such acts would not be tolerated in the future and decided that lion conservation would become a permanent feature in their communities.
From this one act, immense trust has developed between the community and the Ngorongoro Lion Guardians project and we look forward to continuing to work together to conserve lions and preserve cultures.