Tag Archives: Human-Wildlife Conflict

Exposure Tour Shares Conservation Lessons Across Two Communities

With the recent severe lion conflict occurring within the Nakuprat-Gotu Conservancy, Ewaso Lions initiated an exposure tour for residents to visit Westgate Community Conservancy to learn about the conservation activities taking place there, which might be adapted and applied in Nakuprat-Gotu.

Nakuprat-Gotu is a primarily Turkana community located to the east of Samburu Naitonal Reserve in northern Kenya. Ewaso Lions organized the exposure tour in February in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Nakuprat Conservancy management, Samburu National Reserve and Westgate Community Conservancy.

The Chairlady of Nakuprat-Gotu Conservancy discusses wildlife conservation and tourism benefits to community members during the exposure tour visit to Samburu National Reserve.

Following discussions within Nakuprat in late January, it was apparent that general conservation awareness among the community was low, and there were concerns over carnivore predation of livestock. Importantly, community members wanted to get involved and become informed. We decided to bring together the residents of this conservancy and take them to Samburu National Reserve and Westgate Conservancy for an exposure tour.

Gabriel Lepariyo, Warden of Samburu National Reserve, welcomed the group and addressed key issues such as the importance of wildlife within the region and the benefits of having tourists visit Samburu and Buffalo Springs. Charles Lekirimpoto followed up with a discussion on how important working with the communities was in conservation.

Next, the group stopped into Save the Elephants research centre, where David Daballen, head researcher, addressed the group about poaching and the current problems facing elephants.

The Chairlady of Nakuprat-Gotu, Josephine Ekiru, was instrumental in bringing together the key community members and encouraging them to learn from this experience and to take the message back to their homes and spread the knowledge. She challenged the group to learn to live with wildlife and to frequently report any problems.

The group spent the afternoon visiting Westgate Community Conservancy and was welcomed by the Interim Manager of Westgate, Francis Lalampaa, the Grazing Chairman, Michael Lesachore, and the Chairman of the Board, Ltepeswan Lesachore. The group discussed the various steps in how Westgate became a successful Conservancy and the benefits it now receives through wildlife – which include school bursaries, water projects, health clinics, security and much more.

Chairman of Westgate Community Conservancy discusses the benefits his conservancy has received from wildlife.

Steve Okoth, the Community Warden from Kenya Wildlife Service, addressed issues such as compensation for human death, the importance of reporting on any wildlife conflict and building on a successful relationship between the community and the wildlife officials. Over lunch, we were able to show the group an educational and informative film on the importance of natural resources and how better to protect livestock against predators. Following this, the group visited the Core Conservation Area and Buffer Zone in Westgate to learn about successful grazing management in the area.

The Nakuprat-Gotu community members responded very positively to the talks and freely spoke of their problems with wildlife. We were impressed with their honesty and also their open-mindedness to conservation. The elders said they were impressed with what they saw on the exposure tour, and they are open to learning more about Westgate’s success in community conservation. They requested continued awareness about the importance of wildlife and the potential of receiving benefits through tourism or wildlife research within their own Conservancy.

Ewaso Lions thanks the Westgate Conservancy Management for all their assistance with the Nakuprat Community members and the Kenya Wildlife Service, Save the Elephants and Samburu National Reserve for their support during this exposure tour.

The group visits the grazing zone in Westgate Conservancy.

Jeneria from Ewaso Lions shows the group one of our reinforced bomas that prevents hyenas and other carnivores from preying on livestock.


Speaking at the Conservation Conflicts Conference

I have just returned Aberdeen, Scotland, where I attended the ACES conference.  The conference theme was “Conservation Conflicts: Strategies for coping with a changing world”.  This was the perfect opportunity to give a talk on Warrior Watch and the work that Ewaso Lions is doing with the Samburu communities related to human-lion conflict.  My presentation was well received and opened up a lot of new discussion and ideas on conflict mitigation and strategies that work globally.

It was a productive few days with multi-disciplinary plenary sessions and talks, highlighting ecological, social and at times political issues all relating to conservation conflict.  With presenters from all over the world – including a few from Kenya – I learned a lot about how conflicts occur over a range of scales from the local management of single species to international conflicts over the management of resources, and ways people are working to reduce this conflict.

ACES ConferencePresenters from Kenya (from left to right):  Shivani Bhalla, Winnie Kiiru, Irene Amoke

If any readers attended the conference, let me know what you thought. I’d love to hear from you.

Workshop for Carnivore Researchers

This week was the annual Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Carnivore Research and Conservation Workshop. It’s a great way for all of us involved in carnivore conservation to come together and provide updates on research and project activities. Jeneria, Paul, our volunteer Heather, and I attended.

This year the workshop was again held at KWS headquarters in Nairobi but was two days, and we heard from a wide range of people, including Living With Lions, Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, the Mara Hyena Project, Born Free Foundation, and many more. Lion-related issues certainly dominated the workshop, covering everything from predator-proof bomas and human-lion conflict to the controversial predator compensation schemes.

I presented an update on all Ewaso Lions activities. It was great to have the opportunity to share how much we’ve done in a year.

Jeneria presented on Warrior Watch. We are so proud of his delivery and the way he confidently spoke in front of such a big group of important carnivore experts. Several people came up to us and said how much they enjoyed hearing from Jeneria.

Ewaso Lions thanks KWS for hosting the workshop and we thank all the participants for their great work!

Leopard Captured on Camera Trap

Conflict has recently escalated over the past few weeks due to failure of rains and more movement of livestock in search of pasture.  Two stray donkeys were recently killed by hyena in the lugga (sand river) near the Ewaso Lions camp.  We went to visit the scene and as we approached the area, we noticed that part of the donkey was missing.  We walked closer only to find a leopard jump off a tree right in front of us with part of the dead donkey draped over a branch. 

Leopard sightings have been superb in Westgate over the past few weeks and I was very curious to see who this leopard was.  Philip and Jeneria climbed the tree and tied the camera trap at an angle facing the remains of the donkey.  We left the area knowing the leopard would be back.  We were all very excited about what images we would get the following day.  Moses, an Ewaso Lions Scout, collected the camera trap at 6 am the next day. And the images blew us away!  Here they are:





Working With Renowned Human-Wildlife Conflict Expert From USA

I was thrilled to have Nina Fascione and her husband Steve Kendrot come and stay with us at the Ewaso Lions camp a while back.  Nina is the Vice President for Field Conservation for Defenders of Wildlife and a renowned human-wildlife conflict expert.  Today we have a special guest blog written by Nina!

After looking for her intently for so long that my eyes strained, I wasn’t actually expecting to see her when we did come upon her. Lekuraiyo, standing next to me with our heads sticking out of the top of the jeep (his head sticking out much farther than mine!), gently tapped me on the shoulder and said “lion.”  And there she was, standing partially hidden in the brush and still as a statue, staring at us without moving a muscle, the better to remain unseen.  In my excitement, I leaned down, punched Shivani on the arm and hissed “lion!”  Shivani was thrilled to see Magilani, the lioness she had been monitoring for several weeks, but not as much as I was, as this was my first wild lion. Indeed, it was my first trip to Africa.  Despite having worked with animals and in the conservation world since 1980, I had never before made this journey to the epitome of wildlife meccas.  My husband Steve, also a wildlife biologist, and I traveled to Northern Kenya to visit Shivani and learn more about her work.


Nina with Francis (Ewaso Lions Scout) and Lekuraiyo (Ewaso Lions tracker) standing in Gypsy

I met Shivani when she became a student in the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) class, a leadership training program that I co-founded and teach.

Shivani’s large carnivore conservation resonated with me because it parallels the work I oversee in North America as vice-president for field conservation for Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders has successfully worked to restore wolves, grizzly bears and other endangered species to parts of the United States, and the challenges we encounter while doing so are similar to the challenges Shivani faces in her work studying and protecting lions in Kenya: primarily, conflict with humans, including direct conflict as well as human-caused habitat loss and fragmentation.

Conflicts between humans and wildlife can seem like overwhelming obstacles to successful conservation programs.  In the United States, some ranchers and hunters object to the restoration of large carnivores, as they view them as a threat to their livelihoods.  Defenders has helped ameliorate these conflicts through several successful programs, such as our livestock compensation trust, in which we reimburse ranchers for verified livestock losses to wolves and grizzly bears.

We also maintain a proactive program, through which we work with ranchers to take steps to prevent livestock losses.  Defenders will fund the purchase and implementation of tools to keep wolves and bears away from livestock. These methods include livestock guarding dogs, fencing, employing range riders to monitor livestock and so on.

These programs have gone a long way in preventing conflicts, as well as reducing the animosity some local residents feel toward large carnivores and, presumably, the legal or illegal killing of carnivores. Through the Ewaso Lion project, Shivani is similarly working with local people – the Samburu – to understand the causes of and find solutions to prevent conflict and animosity towards predators and other wildlife in Kenya. For example, Shivani is working with local villages to ensure that bomas, the pens made out of brush where the livestock are housed at night, are strong enough to deter predators.

Biological studies are increasingly demonstrating that predators are essential to a healthy ecosystem. In addition, they bring vital economic benefits to regions through ecotourism. And perhaps most importantly, carnivores provide us with deep-rooted cultural and aesthetic values. Whether working to protect wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the United States or lions in the Samburu ecosystem in Kenya, we should all care about their conservation.