84 Runners Compete in Race Sponsored by Ewaso Lions

Our third annual “Running for Lions” half marathon was a great success.  Held on the 2nd of June in Westgate Community Conservancy, the run attracted 84 runners from all over the conservancy, including a few runners from as far as Wamba town.  We had a 21 km run for the elders and warriors, and a 7 km run for women and children.

The Ewaso Lions team did great!  Moses, our Ewaso Lions Scout, came in 3rd position in the Elders race; Letupukwa, our cook, finished in 3rd position in the Warriors race; AND Yesalai, our Assistant Community Officer, finished in 7th position in the Warriors run.  The rest of the team were scattered at check-points on the half-marathon course.

Start of the Half Marathon

On the route through Westgate Conservancy

Moses passes a check-point

Winner of the Half Marathon, Lengures

Ladies line up to receive their prizes

Ewaso Lions Team: Letupukwa (left), Yesalai (middle) and Moses (right)

Jeneria presents Yesalai with his prize

The Running for Lions 2012 Group

The event was sponsored by Westgate Conservancy, Sasaab Lodge, Carter Safaris and Ewaso Lions.  We are already looking forward to next year’s event!

Shivani receives the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation

We have exciting news! Shivani recently won the innagural Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation. Below is the news from the press release. Congratulations, Shivani!

Shivani Bhalla, Executive Director of the Ewaso Lions Project, was awarded the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation by the Born Free Foundation for her work to conserve lions and other large carnivores in northern Kenya.

Bhalla is the inaugural recipient of the Virginia McKenna Award, to be given annually by the Born Free Foundation in consultation with the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and the Compassionate Conservation Network. It is intended to provide support and recognition for researchers, practitioners, organisations and projects that promote and develop the consideration of animal welfare in conservation practice.

“I could not be happier that Shivani and the Ewaso Lions Project are the first recipients of this award,” said Virginia McKenna OBE, co-founder and trustee of the Born Free Foundation. “She and her team face many challenges, but they are true champions of lions and their survival in Kenya. I send my warmest congratulations and feel sure they will be an inspiration to many.”

Shivani is presented the award by Mwenja from Born Free Foundation.

Bhalla, who founded the Ewaso Lions Project in 2007 to address lion decline and human-wildlife conflict in northern Kenya, works with local communities to reduce conflict and help them understand the importance of lions and other wildlife.

“I am honoured to be the first recipient of the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation and for Ewaso Lions to be recognised as an effective conservation project which is working to secure the future for lions in northern Kenya,” said Bhalla.

About Born Free Foundation
The Born Free Foundation is a dynamic international wildlife charity, devoted to compassionate conservation and animal welfare. Born Free takes action worldwide to protect threatened species and stop individual animal suffering.

About Ewaso Lions
The Ewaso Lions Project was formed to ensure a future for lions and other large carnivores in northern Kenya. Ewaso Lions uses scientific research and community-based outreach programmes to promote coexistence between lions and people, and is the only project in northern Kenya to focus on lions in and out of protected areas.

Human-Wildlife Conflict – or is it Human-Human Conflict?

I was fortunate to attend a week-long training course facilitated by Francine Madden of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration. The training was held at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and I am very grateful to the Denver Zoological Foundation for funding to attend the training.

We were a large diverse group that attended, from all over the world. The East African contingent was huge! There were representatives from Uganda and Tanzania and a large group from northern Kenya.

We learned a lot about mediation, conflict resolution and conflict mapping over the week and used many local examples to put it all into context. It became clear to us that Human-Wildlife conflict is more about conflict between people and we learned many ways in how to address this.

Overall, it was a fantastic training course and I was excited to return to Samburu to practice what I had learned. We also teamed up with Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) and shared our experience and knowledge with our field teams and Westgate Community Conservancy.

Working on a conflict case

The Ubuntu-Mtetezi group in Ol Pejeta

Our teams in Samburu practice their conflict mapping

Stephen from Westgate and Peter from GZT role play a conflict case

Lion Killed On Highway

Jalalo, one of the females in the Ngare Mara Pride, recently lost one of her 1-year old male cubs. The lions were crossing the main tarmac highway (Isiolo-Archers Post) at night, accessing a swamp opposite the Chokaa Gate entrance, when a speeding vehicle hit the cub. We went to investigate the following day and identified the lion as Jalalo’s cub. She remains with one cub.

Many bumps have been put along this road, however the section outside Chokaa Gate remains without any. We hope that this will change in the future as each dry season, many animals will cross the highway in search of water. To date, we’ve recorded Grevy’s zebra, aardwolf and numerous spotted hyena that have been hit on this road.

Identifying the lion with KWS ranger

Jeneria looks at the spot where the lion was hit

Training Warriors with Grevy’s Zebra Trust

We teamed up with the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) team earlier in the year to train their new Warrior recruits from the Laisamis region, north of Samburu. This week-long training exercise brought together our Warriors from Westgate with ten Samburu and Rendille Warriors focusing on Grevy’s zebra monitoring in an area where they are threatened by lack of resources and hunting. The GZT Warriors learned about predators and how to mitigate conflict, and our Warrior Watch team also learnt about the behaviour and ecology of Grevy’s zebra, the conservation issues facing the species, and what is being done to address their plight. The Warriors were given the opportunity to work together in the field. This was very effective as they discussed their roles in wildlife conservation and the challenges they face. We wish the Grevy’s zebra Warriors all the very best in their work in northern Kenya.

Shivani Featured in New Wildlife Heroes Book

I am honoured to have been selected to be featured in the new book WILDLIFE HEROES. The book combines unique real-life stories, stunning photographs, and fascinating animal information to make a point: we can turn the tide and save species in decline. The individuals profiled in the book have dedicated their lives to preserving compelling creatures that are struggling for existence.

With introductions to each chapter by icons such as author Kuki Gallman, actor Ted Danson, actress Stefanie Powers, Congressman Jay Inslee and animal advocate Jack Hanna, and a back cover endorsement by world-famous wildlife expert Dr. Jane Goodall, this book aims to bring broader awareness for the critical efforts taking place to save these amazing species.

It is a real privilege to have been featured in this book alongside such inspirational people, and I think the book is beautifully put together!

Wildlife Heroes is available in books stores and on-line beginning tomorrow (March 6, 2012). For more information, or to purchase the book, please visit WildlifeHeroes.org.

Ewaso Lions Welcomes Two New Staff Members

We are pleased to announce two new members of our core team; Yesalai Lemachokoti and Laikos Letupukwa.

Yesalai is a young Samburu warrior who comes from the Sasaab area in Westgate Conservancy. Yesalai is now our new Assistant Community Officer who will be assisting Ngila with recording all conflict incidences and working with the communities. With the increase in conflict in November 2011 during the rains, Ngila needed the additional support, to ensure that all incidences were being recorded. Following an initial training with Ngila, Yesalai is now working in the Sasaab area and based out of the Ewaso Lions Camp. Yesalai is also one of our warriors in the Warrior Watch programme and we are excited to be able to provide him with this new position.

YesalaiYesalai, Assistant Community Officer

Laikos Letupukwa comes from the Wamba area near Westgate and is our new camp cook. Laikos trained at a hotel on the Kenyan coast and came armed with lots of cooking skills. We are pleased to have him in camp as he feeds a growing number of Ewaso Lions team members and maintains camp.
Letupukwa Letupukwa, Camp Cook

We are grateful to the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative for funding Laikos’s position in 2012 and are currently seeking long-term secure funding for Yesalai’s position. If you would like to make a donation towards this, please click on the Donate Now button. Thank you!

A Surprise in Westgate’s Conservation Area

Since the rains and floods that took place in November 2011, it was difficult for us to conduct our regular transects and drives in the Core Conservation Area in Westgate Community Conservancy. The area began to dry up slowly and we were able to finally start our drives in early January. For the first few weeks, we struggled to see any animals. Most of the wildlife had dispersed away from the Ewaso Nyiro River into the hills. We literally had a few gerenuk sightings and one leopard sighting; not much else for weeks. We had seen some lion tracks but were unable to find them.

On the 28th of January, we got a report that a lioness had been seen in the Core Area. I got really excited and immediately thought “Magilani!”. Jeneria and I left camp quickly and headed straight into the Core Area. I was excited yet nervous at the same time. We got to the area at 3 pm and immediately spotted the lioness. She was sitting under a tree in some thick bushes. As we approached, she barely flinched and didn’t even look at us. This was not the normal behaviour of a lion in a community area. They are rarely out in the daytime and often at the sight or sound of human presence, they disappear quickly. This female sat there without moving. I looked through my binoculars and realised that this was in fact a young female -and not Magilani. I was disappointed for a few minutes but interested and excited at the same time to figure out who this female was.

DSC_0444Nabulo sits under the tree – our first sighting of the trio

The pieces fell into place quickly. Jeneria and I discovered this female was Nabulo; one of three females from the Koitogor Pride in Samburu National Reserve, who left her mother, Nabo, in 2011. We soon spotted the other two females, the beautiful Sipen and Nanai (Jeneria’s favourite lion!). They had made a waterbuck kill and were resting in the shade near the kill.

We spent the afternoon with these beautiful lionesses and watched them come down to drink, feed on the kill and sit on the beached banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. It was a special afternoon and our best lion sighting yet in Westgate.

DSC_0478_2Sipen comes to drink

DSC_0521Nanai and Nabulo drink

DSC_0580_2Feeding on their waterbuck kill

Jeneria’s reaction to this sighting was one of concern. He said, “These lions don’t know how to behave in community areas. They don’t know how to hide or to avoid people and danger. They are too calm and in the open. How will they survive here?”. I understood and agreed with his concerns and we decided to make sure the community were aware of their presence and monitor their movements to see if they would go back to Samburu National Reserve or stay in Westgate. This is the first time we have seen Reserve lions in Westgate and are keen to follow up to ensure their safety and monitor their movements.

IMG_0853A beautiful evening with Nabulo, Sipen and Nanai along the Ewaso Nyiro River

Ewaso Lions Sponsors Young Girl To Attend Secondary School

We have recently sponsored a young 15 year old Samburu girl, Painoti Letabare, to attend secondary school in Maralal, Samburu District. Painoti comes from the Westgate area in Westgate Conservancy and lives with her parents and younger siblings. She is the first from the family to be given the opportunity to attend secondary school after she completed primary school a few months ago.

Painoti studied at the Lpus Leluai Primary School where she attained 260 marks in the Primary School exams and was the top girl in the school. Her family who only have a few goats as livestock were unable to afford to send her to secondary school after she received admission in one of Samburu District’s best girls’ schools – Kisima High. Ewaso Lions followed her progress and learned about her family situation and decided to enroll young Painoti in our Bursary Programme to join Samson and Edward, the two boys Ewaso Lions is currently sponsoring.

We are excited to have Painoti attend secondary school and will keep you updated on her progress.

Painoti and mama

Painoti with her mother and youngest sister. Her mother is thrilled to send her oldest daughter to school

Painoti on her way to school
Painoti excited to be given the opportunity to go to school

Happy Holidays from Ewaso Lions

Hi everyone!

As the year comes to a close, we want to wish everyone a very special holiday and express our deepest gratitude for your support this past year. Ewaso Lions would not be able to function without you. And we mean it.

2011 has been a big year marked by success and struggle. We were delighted to see the birth of cubs in the Reserves; the Warrior Watch programme is charging ahead, involving young Samburu warriors in conservation; but we also had hardships like Magilani’s injury and disappearance.

We have big plans for 2012 and hope for your continued support. Conservation efforts here are daunting, but we truly believe in the potential for coexistence between people and lions in Kenya.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday — and thanks again.

The Ewaso Lions team

PS If you would like to make a tax-deductible year-end gift to Ewaso Lions, click the link below. It would mean the world to us.


Jabdu and Cubs in Buffalo Springs

Jabdu and Cubs in Buffalo Springs