Living with Lions and Panthera are collaborating to expand the successful Lion Guardian model to areas in Tanzania where lion populations are in decline due to conflict with local people. Serengeti Lion Research Project and Panthera asked that we consider the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as the first location for the expansion. We decided to give it a try! I was selected to go to Tanzania and was warmly received by my hosts.
We visited several areas within the greater Ngorongoro ecosystem and the expansive plains adjacent to Serengeti Game reserve. We saw several interesting geographical features like Olduvai Gorge and the bewildering shifting sands and had a firsthand experience of the Great Wildebeest Migration into the area. Never have I ever seen such a big number of wildebeest and zebras. They covered every available space in the expansive plains! In fact, it did not matter what direction I looked in; they were everywhere!
But the most interesting part of my visit was inside the crater. Apart from seeing other plains game in the hundreds, we saw atleast 29 lions on a single day. The Ngorongoro lions are different from the Amboseli lions in more ways than one:
First, for the males, the size of the mane is just breathtaking! You could hardly see the face.
Secondly, because of the nature of the crater and the surounding human population, The Serengeti Lion Project explained to me that all the more than 55 individual lions in the crater are related! Talk about serious in-breeding! Clearly, this is not good for any lion population thus there needs to be an increase in tolerance amongst the Maasai pastoralist to enable connectivity between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro lion populations in order to avoid further in-breeding. The area has experienced livestock-lion conflict in the past and this is why we recommend an expansion of the Lion Guardian programme into the area.
We attended several meetings with the relevant Ngorongoro Conservation area authority officials as well as the local community represented by the powerful Pastralist Council, and talks are still on to get full buy-in from all parties affected to get the final approval to start-up a Lion Guardian programme in Tanzania.
Please help support Lion Guardians in Kenya and in our future expansions by donating here.