The relationship between the herdsmen of Africa and the lion is complex. Lions are both a source of anxiety, because they kill livestock, and a source of pride, as they symbolize strength and courage.
African herdsmen have coexisted with lions and other wildlife for hundreds of years; this situation is changing radically. Recently, increasing demands of a growing human population has led to elevated levels of lion killing.
When the current elders were youths, there were likely over 200,000 lions in Africa. Today, it is estimated that fewer than 30,000 remain.
Wildlife conservation has traditionally focused on wildlife, not people. At Lion Guardians, we take the opposite approach. For almost a decade, we have worked with local communities to protect lions and improve both community conservation by blending traditional knowledge and culture with science.
We believe that the communities who bear the costs of living with wildlife should have a strong role in the development and management of wildlife conservation on their lands.
Lion Guardians draws its strength from using indigenous culture and traditional knowledge rather than attempting to change the culture. Transforming lion killers into Guardians developed out of years of working with Maasai communities to understand the traditional motives of lion killing. Lion Guardians demonstrate that conserving and protecting lions through participatory monitoring, ownership, education, and employment brings prestige and status to a Maasai warrior.
Over 300 homesteads are reinforced each year
Over $1 million of potential livestock loss to the community is avoided annually
On average 15 lost herders and children are found each year
Annually Guardians prevent an average of 50 lion hunts (~50% with conservation partners)
Over the years, Lion Guardians have documented a near tripling of the lion population in Amboseli.
Lion Guardians mitigate conflict by closely monitoring problem lions by using radio telemetry.
Annually, Guardians survey more than 17,000 kms of predetermined routes across the ecosystem, documenting trends in all major predator and prey species.
Guardians have given Maasai names to more than 150 lions. Naming the lions allows them to form bonds. The lions belong to the Guardians and their communities.