Category Archives: Donors

A Glimpse Inside the Ewaso Lion Project by Guest Blogger Pascal Fournié

Today’s post was written by Pascal Fournié, founder and president of Afrique Horizons, a French organization that promotes conservation in Africa. Pascal visited Samburu in July and spent several days with Jeneria, our Field Officer. Here is his account.

The first time I went to Samburu was in 1990. During the next twenty years, I got the chance to come back several times when I worked for a French tourism company as a tour-guide. But last month, I got a wonderful opportunity to stay in Samburu for 9 days (special thanks to Laure Boisgard). I shall never forget my experience with Jeneria of Ewaso Lions. Let me tell you the story…

In contact with Shivani since last year, I told her I was planning to spend at least a week to follow lions and to take many photos of each lion. After some discussion, Shivani proposed to lend me a GPS unit to collect coordinates and other important information about lions. She also said that Jeneria could stay with me, which was a really good idea to help identify all the lions of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves.

On 19th of July, Shivani, Paul and Jeneria came to my campsite to visit me and we spent two hours talking about Ewaso Lions’ programs. That gave me the chance to understand all the work they do and how it is really important to support the project.

groupe-ewasolions-pascalFrom left to right: Pascal, Shivani, Paul and Jeneria

Samburu, Buffalo Springs, Shaba National Reserves and the entire Ewaso Nyiro ecosystem is a fragile world where some species are in danger of extinction. Human and tourism pressures, habitat loss and especially climate change (which creates conflicts) can make this world disappear in the near future! And lions are one of these species at risk.

On 20th of July, Shivani came back to drop Jeneria to my camp before going to Nairobi. I could see how she was sad to leave Samburu for some months. But for us – Jeneria and me – it was the beginning of our “job”! At 8:30 am, we found two lionesses: Nashipai and Nabo. Today, I can tell you that I fell in love with Nashipai and I’m missing her so much (please, don’t repeat that, it’s between you and me)!

nabo-nashipaiNabo and Nashipai

I really loved looking at these lionesses, recording GPS coordinates and their behavior, and listening to Jeneria. I believe that fully understanding something is the first step in helping. Later, we met the Ngare Mara pride with Kofafeth, Mirtu, and Jala with a dead oryx, Sabdi and Dafana were resting somewhere else. That day was so great!

ngare-mara-prideThe Ngare Mara lions

Believe me, Jeneria has better eyes than an eagle! He is the GPS of the area… He knows everywhere, each road, each tree. It’s incredible. Shivani couldn’t find a better ambassador than him.

jeneria-pascalJeneria and Pascal in Westgate Conservancy

On 22nd July, we went to Westgate conservancy. First, we stopped at Lpus Leluai Primary School where teachers have created a Wildlife Club. About 100 kids have joined the club.

After this nice visit, we went to Ewaso Lions Camp. Even if the landscape is so beautiful from the hill, the camp lacks basic comforts. As Chip Owen has written in this blog on 21st May, it looks like every day is an adventure. All together, we must make the camp to be more comfortable for the Ewaso Lions team. Shivani, Paul, Jeneria and some other people live there 24 hours per day, 365 days per year in very poor condition. Because they do wonderful work protecting lions and wildlife for future generations, and giving a better future to the Samburu community, they need bigger and more resistant tents which cost only $800 each and a permanent kitchen, and other equipment to make their work a bit easier.

camp-ewasolionsThe Ewaso Lions camp

To help Ewaso Lions, it is not only enough to send some money for GPS units, binoculars, camera traps… It is also to give them better living conditions. Each of us can give a little. No donation is too small, each dollar counts. Because Ewaso Lions is not widely known, they need our support.

Imagine that sponsoring Warrior Watch is $800 per year, only $65 per month (€50 per month). Without Shivani and her team, can you imagine a future for the lions in this area?

The following days, we continued to track lions. We saw very interesting behavior when the Ngare Mara pride chased Nashipai and Nabo from their territory. It was also so great to see Lguret, Lorish, Nanai, Nabolu and Sipen. Today, I know 12 lions in Samburu and, for me, all these names mean something now. My wish: to give them the chance to have a future because I really want to see them again as soon as possible!

nashipai-chasedNashipai chased by Ngare Mara Lions

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I want to say “Thank you so much” to Jeneria, Shivani and Paul for their kindness, their love for lions and wildlife, and for the time they give to protect this wonderful world called Samburu. They don’t count the hours they spend in the bush, they don’t mind about holidays and they have put a priority in their life: to make sure lions and communities will live together forever…

Pascal Fournié

Ewaso Lions Needs Your Help Today!

Today, we have a very special blog written by one of our key supporters, Chip Owen.  Chip, who lives in San Diego, CA, has been a long time donor and advocate for conservation projects in Africa and serves on the boards of various non-profits.  He regularly returns to Kenya where he is especially involved in Samburu.  Chip asked to write a blog and here are his thoughts…

As most of you know, I recently returned from an extended trip to Kenya including a stay at the Ewaso Lion’s camp. I asked Shivani if it would be ok for me to write about some of my thoughts on the trip and she has been gracious enough to allow me to post my thoughts. As Shivani had already told you, my visit included a wonderful camping trip to the Mara with Shivani, 4 of her team from Ewaso Lions and and several other of my Samburu friends.  It would be easy to write about our adventures camping in the Mara or my day long  walk up and down the dry Ewaso Nyiro River bed with five warriors and three scouts, or helping dig waterholes to keep the local wildlife going during what appears to be another drought . But what I really wanted to talk about is the amazing job that Ewaso Lions is doing in conservation and how we all can help their effort to protect the remaining lions in the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba ecosystem and the conservancies around the reserves.

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Walking in the dry Ewaso Nyiro River bed with the scouts and warriors

So how many lions are left in the wilds of Africa? As you can imagine there is no real way to know.  I’ve read that there could be anywhere from  12,000 to 25,000  remaining today —seems like quite a few until you put in perspective. Just fifty years ago the population estimates were there may have been as many as 450,000!! So in one  lifetime an estimated 95% of the lion population has disappeared. We have to help and we have to do it now!

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to and observe a number of conservation and research projects throughout the world and I can say without hesitation that what I’ve seen in Samburu at Ewaso Lions is the wave of the future and in my view one of the most forward thinking conservation projects I’ve encountered. For wildlife conservation to be successful the local community must see it as having value. Studies repeatedly show that the number one animal that tourists on safari want to see are lions. Shivani and her team are doing a magnificent job of involving the community through the Warrior Watch program, education, employing people from the community and working with them to show that lions and pastoralists can co exist with improved stock protection methods. Not to mention the tree planting project and the critically acclaimed Simba Stories book written and illustrated by local elementary school children.

The even more amazing thing is they are accomplishing so much with so little. To put it mildly this is a project that gives great ‘bang for the buck”! No frills here and it takes a lot of plain hard work by everyone involved to do what they do . Up before dawn to get ready for the field and out at sunrise through the heat of the day and with the last light they transect the Core Conservation Area and set the camera traps for the night. Imagine that every drop of water whether for drinking, or cooking or washing is carried from over a half mile away. A few tents, some solar cells, one vehicle and some really dedicated folks helping nature and the local community.

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The very simple Ewaso Lions Camp

So with more support I’m confident even more great work can be accomplished. So as a long time supporter, I am asking you to donate to this amazingly worthwhile project and to do it today. Your support is critical and all donations make a big difference no matter the size. It only takes about $150 to pay the monthly salary of a scout who helps patrol the conservation area and protect the wildlife. GPS units for the warriors are high priority right now and they are about $100 a piece.  And we can sponsor the entire staff of 16 warriors working in their community to protect wildlife for only $ 7,000 for the year. Talk about money well spent! So maybe you can’t give the whole $7,000 for the year, but we can all give something and if you want your donation to go to a specific need, here are a few others :

Camera Trap         $200 each and 2 are needed

Binoculars for Warriors          $80 and 8 are currently needed

Rechargeable Batteries and solar chargers        $90 and 10 are needed for the warriors

Camp Solar Panels           $ 2,600  (they need more power as they do struggle with charging laptops and hand held radios for communication)

An Office Tent          $1,500  (their old office tent has been destroyed in the rains and strong winds)

Or feel free to contact Shivani or me to talk about some other way to make a donation. There are many needs where you can really help.

But we need to act now!

So click here and make a donation today –I’m making another as soon as this is posted.

Help Ewaso Lions give the remaining lions a better chance at survival and the opportunity for future generations to see them in the wild as they should be.

Thanks so much for your help and support.

Chip Owen

San Diego, CA USA

A Huge Thank You To Our 2010 Donors

Thank you so much to everyone who made donations to Ewaso Lions in 2010.  We could not have achieved what we did without your support and are so grateful for your continued interest, encouragement and support.

We would like to thank:

– Chip Owen

– Madeliene Todd & Stuart Allum

– Norma Scott

– Tom and Mandy Traut

– Trish Scott

– Patrick Webb

– Lynn Loacker

– Sauwah Tsang

– Heather Cunningham

– Kathy Vinson

– David and Karie Thomson

– Debbie & Skip Elliott

– Brenton Head

– Nina Fascione

– Lee Burnett

– Tim Rummery

–  Bev Spector

– Paula Ristuccia

– Vina Amin

– Nigel Winser

– Jeremy Lucas

– Bansi Shah & Mark Galley

–  Wills Family

Ewaso Lions Mid-Year Report: News on Lions and Community Projects

Dear friends of Ewaso Lions,

We are pleased to present our Mid-Year Report to provide you with news from Samburu, information on our lion research and conservation activities, and to keep you posted on life in Camp. It’s been one of our most challenging field seasons yet – from severe drought to massive floods to increased threats to lions. The Ewaso Lions team pushes forward, working with communities, to ensure the long-term survival of Kenya’s top predators and other wildlife.

Lion News

We are currently monitoring close to 40 lions in the Ewaso ecosystem of Samburu. The lions did well during the drought of late 2009. All cubs survived and thrived when most other animals succumbed to the severity of the drought. Most of the females have cubs at the moment, including Magilani in Westgate. We are very excited to report that she was finally seen in April 2010 with two young cubs. She was last seen in August 2009, so it is a huge relief to see her again, especially with cubs.

Conflict:

Lions face high pressure from recent conflict. Lions are struggling to find wild prey and are turning to livestock. Recently in Westgate Conservancy, lions killed three camels; in response, we have held seven community meetings within the entire group ranch. We addressed the need to make bomas stronger with closed entrances so livestock does not escape and end up in predator territory. Herders need to be extra careful and avoid areas where lions are present. The meetings were well-received and the livestock owners have responded by reinforcing bomas to protect livestock better. We will be actively involved in a boma reinforcing project from May onwards thanks to support from our donors.

A lioness killed in retaliation by a person.

If conflict continues, things could get grim for the lions and we are working hard to continue with our awareness and education programmes. It is thanks to your donations that we are able to go out each day and hold meetings and travel around the group ranch talking to the communities about lions.

To read our blog on the increased conflict, click here.

Radio-Collaring:

After months of trying, we successfully collared the elusive male lion, Lguret, in late February. He was first collared in 2009 and it was time to replace his collar. It was no easy task to find him; we spent a total of 60 field days over the past eight months, averaging 12 hours each day, and driving nearly two thousand kilometers! Lguret now has a new radio/GPS tracking collar and we will be able to capture valuable movement data.

For photos and a detailed account on this collaring operation, click here.

Lguret, the radio-collared lion in Samburu.

We have begun to analyse the data from his old collar and preliminary results already show interesting patterns where he moved out of the reserves to areas where large numbers of livestock were present. Lguret was re-collared before the March floods and we are yet to know where he has gone during this time. We still have plans to collar at least four more individuals.

Collaring lions is very tough work and requires a lot of time and funds. We are grateful for all the donors who have assisted us so far and I urge you all to keep supporting us so we can monitor the Ewaso lions closely.

Camera Trapping:

Thanks to donors, we have acquired two camera traps for the project. Identifying individual predators in Westgate is difficult since they are nervous and often run away before we can take good identity photos. Plus, the candid photos of wildlife in the absence of humans may give us insight into some of their natural behaviours. Each night we place the camera traps in the Conservation Area of Westgate in strategic locations where we know lions, hyenas and other animals pass. It is always exciting in the mornings to go and check the cameras and see what the cameras have captured. So far, we have managed to get some great photos of elephants and hyenas (including one of a hyena biting the actual camera!). We have since built metal boxes around the cameras to deter curious and toothsome hyenas. In time, we hope to have a collection of ID photos to estimate the density of carnivores in this community area.

A spotted hyena captured by our camera trap.

Other Wildlife News:

Many animals died during the severe drought in 2009. Almost all buffalo, waterbuck, warthog and impala died during this time. The rains returned in October and the survivors made the most of the new grass shoots that emerged. Rains in March and April have created a lush green paradise in the reserves. Fattened oryx, huge herds of impala, gazelle and giraffe are scattered all over the reserves and elephants are back in large numbers.

We have been fortunate to have some good predator sightings, including our first cheetah sighting in Westgate. We are excited to have seen wild dogs on numerous occasions both in the reserves and in Westgate, including a pack that passed right behind our camp kitchen! We’ve also seen caracal and had a very special sighting of an aardvark. The vegetation has now begun to dry up and we are busy recording and monitoring all wildlife changes.

Wild dogs seen in the Conservation Area.

Staff News

Paul Thomson joined the Ewaso Lions team full-time in January. Paul has over five years professional experience in African wildlife conservation and is pursuing a Masters degree at Yale. Before joining Ewaso Lions, Paul worked with the African Wildlife Foundation in both Kenya and Washington, DC. We are very excited to have Paul join the team and you will be hearing a lot from him as well. Karibu sana Paul!

In April 2010, we employed two new field members. Moses Letitiya has taken over Jeneria’s position as Lion scout in the Sasaab region. Jeneria is now our head tracker and research assistant. Robert Lenongiro has recently started as Community Officer. Both Robert and Moses are from Westgate. Ricila is now in charge of the Warrior Watch programme (see below) and is Camp Chef. Joseph is Camp Manager and is being trained in data management.

The Ewaso Lions team.

PhD

After some challenges in 2009 due to the security troubles and severe drought, Shivani is busy catching up with PhD-related work and data analysis. She has about another year to complete her PhD with the University of Oxford. She will be traveling to Oxford towards the end of the year to begin writing her thesis. The guys will carry on with activities in the field and in Camp whilst Shivani is away.

News in Camp

Ewaso Lions Camp, located in Westgate Community Conservancy just outside Samburu National Reserve, has seen some real growth this past year. We finally have permanent shade, thanks to our new Mess structure kindly provided by Sasaab Lodge. It is no longer possible to pack up the whole camp in Gypsy the way we used to in 2008!

We still need a lot more in camp: more tents, tables, cooking items, and fuel. Our chairs are broken and solar battery has died. Also, with the rains, our bathrooms have all collapsed and need to be rebuilt. We appreciate any donation towards our Camp needs and are grateful to all of you who have supplied so much to date.

The project has just acquired a Toyota Landcruiser. The vehicle has been christened Winslow (don’t ask!) and is a great companion for the faithful Suzuki, Gypsy. Together, Winslow and Gypsy will allow us to expand the reach and impact of our work across our project area, which covers over 900 km2.

Paul driving around in Winslow, the new project vehicle.

We have hosted many visitors over the past few months. Christina Tsantes from Hunter College, New York, stayed with us for six weeks in July/August and greatly assisted with setting up of databases. Scott Smith from the Wildlife Conservation Society spent a wonderful week in camp in October and witnessed both the severity of the drought and the first rains. Stacey Gardebrecht visited and assisted us for a week in February, followed by Aimee Guha-Roy from the University of Oxford who helped with data and gained some field experience – little did she know she would arrive for the floods! We are happy to host Mary Wykstra and her team from the Action for Cheetahs in Kenya at our Camp whilst she conducts fieldwork in Samburu.

Warrior Watch

We are thrilled to announce our newest programme, Warrior Watch. Through Warrior Watch, Samburu warriors become active within their communities as wildlife ambassadors by reporting on wildlife sightings and issues such as conflict in exchange for a stipend and educational lessons. In partnership with Westgate Conservancy, we selected and trained the first six warriors in January. The programme is already showing signs of success: the warriors seem to genuinely enjoy their new roles; they’ve held meetings throughout the group ranch; and have attended over ten conflict cases in four months. We hope to increase the number of warriors in the programme and are currently seeking funds to enable us to do so. Meet the warriors and see what else they do here.

Shivani working with the warriors on predator tracks identification.

Sponsoring Students

We are happy to announce the first two students sponsored by Ewaso Lions, Samson and Edward. These bright boys completed primary school at Lpus Leluai here in Westgate Conservancy. Under the Ewaso Lions sponsorship, they will continue their education at a highly ranked secondary school in Meru, and their tuition will be covered for four academic years. We received donations from Christina, Nina, Kathy and Trey to enable the boys to go to school. At the end of their first term in their new school, both boys achieved a grade of B- in their subjects, and we are thrilled with these results. Meet the boys here!

New Book: Simba Stories

In May, Ewaso Lions will release Simba Stories, a book of poems, stories and illustrations that celebrate lions, all made by students from Lpus Leluai Primary School in Westgate. The artwork encapsulates their perceptions of lions as they parse together their own young experiences with those learnt in their community and through conservation education programmes. We will be distributing the book locally to increase awareness on the importance of lions and conservation.

Simba Stories will be available for purchase – the details will be posted online. Proceeds from book sales will be used to establish a Wildlife Club at Lpus Leluai Primary School. A very special thanks to Lindsay Morency for putting the book together and making it look so fantastic!

Floods in Samburu

On March 4th, Samburu was rocked by severe flooding, which left eight camps and lodges destroyed, hundreds of people without jobs, infrastructure ruined, and tourism essentially shut down in the area. We were very fortunate – the Ewaso Lions camp was not affected.

Ewaso Lions’ friends and donors responded quickly to our appeals and we were able to assist many Samburu residents with food and clothing. Things are now beginning to recover and lodges and camps are being constructed and repaired. We are yet to assess the impact on wildlife as so many roads are still impassable. See photos of the flood and its aftermath here.

Launch of Kenya’s Lion and Spotted Hyena Strategy

Ewaso Lions was represented at the launch of the National Lion Strategy. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officially launched it at an event in Nairobi on the 17th of February together with the strategies for spotted hyena, cheetahs and wild dogs. This management plan recognises the current and potential geographical range for lions and the threats facing them, and provides guidance for their conservation and management.

Ewaso Lions played an important role in the management plan by providing data and information on lions and hyenas from the Samburu region. Ricila & Mporian, warriors from our Warrior Watch programme, joined Joseph, Paul, and Shivani at the KWS headquarters for the launch. Mporian was given the honour of opening the ceremony with a traditional Samburu blessing.

Lion Research Safari

In January, we had our first Lion Research Safari in conjunction with Gamewatchers (a fantastic, eco-friendly safari company which has a number of Porini Camps in Kenya). Our guests, the Wills family of Scotland joined us during our research activities in Shaba and visited our community programmes in Westgate. For more information on Lion Research Safaris, and how they help our project, go to: http://www.porini.com/lion-research-safari.html

Kenyan Kids on Safari

We have now taken more than 40 young kids on game drives in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. Kenyan Kids on Safari (KKOS) and Todd Cromwell donated cameras, binoculars and a print station to Ewaso Lions to allow us to take young children in villages and schools into the National Reserves to see wildlife. Many of these children have never seen the big cats or elephants close-up and only get to see the negative side of wildlife. Together with Intrepids and Sasaab lodges, we have shown these kids a positive side of wildlife. We hope to take more kids on safari in 2010. For more, visit kidsonsafari.org

Children from Kenyan Kids on Safari.

Tree Project

We have planted 75 trees to date within schools and villages in Westgate. Unfortunately most of the trees died during the 2009 drought. We hope to resume and reenergize the Tree Project over the next few months.

Westgate Marathon

Together with Sasaab Lodge and Westgate Conservancy, we held the first-ever Westgate Marathon on the 1st of May, 2010. The Westgate Marathon was open to everyone. The theme was “Running for Lions.” The marathon was a huge success – we had 30 runners participate including five from the Ewaso Lions team. The winners will be sponsored to run the famous Safaricom Lewa Marathon in June. We hope to hold another Westgate Marathon in 2011 and this time both Paul and Shivani will be out there running for lions!

Joseph running in the Westgate Marathon.

New Ewaso Lions Logo

Ewaso Lions finally has a logo! Paul helped create the bold new logo, which will raise the profile of our growing project and has given our team a sense of identity. We now have stylish new shirts and decals on our vehicles bearing the logo. We hope you like it!

Blog, Facebook and Twitter

Ewaso Lions has launched a full-scale attack on the Internet. We’ve updated our website, we continue to blog as much as possible, and we are more and more active in growing our online community through our Facebook and Twitter pages. Please friend us, follow us, and send us feedback. Also, spread the word and encourage your friends to join Ewaso Lions.

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Thanks to you – our donors and partners – we have come this far in a relatively short period of time. Without your support, our work would not be possible. We are making real progress here, but there is still so much more to be done. We hope you will continue to support this important work as we continue to expand our research and conservation programmes.

Your donations and support are ultimately helping safeguard the future of lions, while improving peoples’ livelihoods, in the Ewaso region of northern Kenya. Donate online here.

For lions. For people. Forever.

With our very best wishes from Samburu,

Shivani Bhalla & Paul Thomson

Directors, Ewaso Lions

Contact

Ewaso Lion Project

P.O. Box 14996

Nairobi 00800

Kenya

Tel: (+254) 721 696 443

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.ewasolions.org

Blog: www.ewasolions.wildlifedirect.org

Join Ewaso Lions on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @EwasoLions

Thanks Norma!

Norma, thank you for your donation to Ewaso Lions!  It was lovely to see you in Samburu a few months ago.  We are finally getting some rain in Samburu which is fantastic and it is finally becoming green.

Thank you again for your donation – it will go a long way in helping us achieve our goals of enhancing the survival of lions in the Ewaso ecosystem.

With my best wishes from Samburu,

Shivani

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Here is a photo of the collared maneless male with one of the cubs

Asante Kriselda!

Thank you Kriselda for your donation to Ewaso Lions! It really means a lot to us and goes a long way in enabling us to continue the work that we are doing.

I hope to show you some of the lions in Samburu this month and the effects of the recent rain.   Samburu is finally becoming green!

With my best wishes and thanks again,

Shivani

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Samburu becoming green!

Thank you for your donations!

Dear Michael, Heather and Katherine,

Thank you SO much for your donations to Ewaso Lions.   Things are currently very difficult in the Samburu region –  see my previous blog on the drought.  Your donations will really help us enormously with continuing our conservation efforts.

Thank you again.

With my best wishes from Samburu,

Shivani & the rest of the team

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Here is one of our new cubs in Buffalo Springs

Thank you Stacey!

Stacey, thank you so much for your donation! I am sorry its taken me long to reply.  Lots of news to report on China and the award ceremony and conference and also much more from the field too.

I will write soon with all news but in the meantime, wanted to say a huge Asante Sana for your donation!

Shiv

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Nashipai in May this year

More Photos of Uni’s Cubs and A Thank You!

Sauwah, thank you so much for your donation and your continued support!

Uni’s 4 little cubs are definitely very cute and the photo in my previous blog entry was a male cub.  Two of the cubs are male and 2 are female.   When they are very young, they do have blue/grey eyes.

To answer your question Sauwah, my project relies on funding from private donors such as what comes through WildlifeDirect.  I also have a few grants from zoos in the US who fund my fieldwork for a limited period. For example, I was given funds for fuel for lion monitoring for 6 months. When the 6 months are over, I need to write another grant for funds to cover the next period.  I sometimes receive the funds, but also get turned down and I need to try again!  I spend a lot of time writing funding applications as I am sure my other fellow bloggers do.

Below are a few more photos of Uni’s cubs  -taken last week in Samburu National Reserve.

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Thank you Kevin and Brenton!

Dear Kevin and Brenton,

Thank you for your donations towards a new camp mess tent after reading our appeal.   We hope to receive more funds over the next 2-3 months and this will enable us to erect a new thatched mess tent in May or June.

Every penny helps and goes a long way in allowing us to continue with our work in conserving lions in this part of Northern Kenya.

Thank you again and I hope to post photos of our new mess tent in a few months time.

With my best wishes,

 Shivani and the rest of the Ewaso Lions team

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Photo of Uni’s cub – taken a week ago in Samburu National Reserve