It takes a community to conserve lions and preserve cultures
we began discussions with the Ngorongoro Lion Project (affiliated to the Serengeti Lion Project) in early 2012 to initiate a Lion Guardians-based project in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), Tanzania. Members of NCA communities visited the Lion Guardians program and surrounding communities at our core site in Amboseli in 2014. Over the following years, several NLP staff participated in a Program Manager’s training session at our center. And upon initiation of the project, 10 Guardians (now Ilchokuti) were trained by Lion Guardians senior staff. In 2015, the project documented lions moving successfully from Serengeti into the Ngorongoro crater, which was a primary aim of implementing a community-based project in that area.
In 2012, we began discussions with Dr. Bernard Kissui, Director of Tarangire Lion Research Initiative (TLRI), because he was concerned with the high rates of lion killing by the local communities. We held a series of meetings and hosted TLRI and 20 members of the local Tarangire Maasai for a community visit to the Lion Guardians program. Following these events, the community expressed a great deal of interest in initiating a Lion Guardians project. In September 2013, the expansion of the Lion Guardians program began in the communities north of TNP when eight new Lion Guardians were hired and trained to protect lions and mitigate conflicts. The tenured Amboseli team trained all the new Lion Guardians.
We began our journey with the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) in early 2011 when they approached us to help them combat the rampant lion killing that was occurring in their area. The severity of the problem became clear when Barabaig warriors killed seven lions in one week during our first visit to the area. Knowing that our approach could reduce the lion killing in Ruaha, we started working with RCP to formulate a way forward. Later that same year, we invited Barabaig community members from Ruaha to meet the Maasai communities around Amboseli and learn about the benefits of initiating a Lion Guardians type project in their area. After the community visit and subsequent meetings, the Barabaig communities in Ruaha agreed to pilot a Lion Guardians-like project, which was developed in partnership between Lion Guardians, RCP and Panthera. Since then 14 Guardians (now Lion Defenders) and four project managers have been fully trained and in 2015 the project passed our rigorous certification standards.