Our latest research has been published! Here, our Office and Data Manager John Merishi, who is Maasai, shares his perspective on the research and why it is so important.
Livestock are central to Maasai culture and life. Pastoralists consider livestock to be their ‘bank account’, since they sell cows and goats to pay bills such as school fees, food, and medication. Plus, they rely on cows, sheep and goats for their milk, fat, and meat. Since losing a cow or goat to a predator affects the livelihood and economic status of families, communities often retaliate by hunting lions or other predators. So losing livestock is not just difficult for pastoralists – it’s also problematic for conservation organizations like Lion Guardians. And since we have experienced a high rate of lost livestock in recent years in the Amboseli ecosystem, the team at Lion Guardians launched a research effort in 2017 to study the issue. I am glad to have participated in the lost livestock research and humbled to have been a co-author in the research paper, which we recently published in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems”.
In this research, we aimed to identify the root cause of lost livestock in the nearby Olgulului, Imbirikani and Eselenkei group ranches. Along the way, we interviewed more than 120 Maasai community members, and what we found was that the main contributors to lost livestock are the use of young, inexperienced herders and the disappearance of herding traditions and knowledge. We came up with an intervention that aims to reduce the number of lost livestock incidences: recruiting “master herders” in areas that frequently experience lost livestock and subsequent attacks by predators. We have so far recruited six master herders in various conflict hotspots. The master herders are veteran herders who have a good track record in livestock husbandry, and they have been training, supervising and mentoring young herders on best herding practices. They also help bring home herds with no herders. In addition, they do morning and evening checks at all bomas in order to ensure that all livestock arrive home safely. By focusing on good livestock husbandry and mentorship of young herders, this initiative has helped in proactively mitigating conflict, and we have seen a reduction in the numbers of lost livestock in these areas.
You can learn more about this research in our recent video, below. Thanks to those that have supported this project – we believe that this work has the potential to be a game-changer for pastoralists and lions alike! We look forward to updating you with more of our findings as this work continues.