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Inspiring Warriors to Conserve Lions in Kenya

Morans, the warrior age-class of the Samburu tribe, traditionally play a central role in protecting their communities and livestock from external threats, including predation by lions and other large carnivores. Yet, these young men represent one of the most neglected groups in conservation decision-making in northern Kenya. As a moran himself, Jeneria Lekilelei, Ewaso Lions’ Field Operations & Community Manager, saw that the only way to succeed in protecting lions would be to engage his own age-set; encourage and inspire them to be ambassadors to keep lions safe. In 2010, Ewaso Lions’ flagship program – Warrior Watch – was born.

“Warriors are the eyes and ears in the bush and involving them is key to the conservation and security of [my] region’s wildlife and people.” — Jeneria Lekilelei

Photo of Samburu warrior
Samburu moran, Jeneria Lekilelei, came up with the idea behind Ewaso Lions’ flagship program, Warrior Watch. (Photo by Tony Allport)

Warrior Watch encourages morans to become engaged in conservation, advocating for peaceful coexistence with carnivores. Their involvement in mitigating human-carnivore conflict is a natural extension of their role as providers of security – be it teaching herders good husbandry practices or discussing the value of lions amongst peers. Similarly, the time they normally spend patrolling in the field has been easily adapted to incorporate data collection and wildlife security duties.

One of our Warriors’ key roles is to monitor individual lions and inform livestock herders when they are in the vicinity, encouraging them to move their herds on to a different area. The idea being that this will help reduce the number of livestock lost to carnivores and, in turn, the potential for retaliatory attacks on lions.

Lemeen, a Warrior Watch warrior, and Jeneria inform these young herders of the lions’ presence. Neither of the girls had seen lions or their tracks in their home area before. (Photo by Tyrel J. Bernardini)
Lemeen, a Warrior Watch warrior, and Jeneria inform these young herders of the lions’ presence. Neither of the girls had seen lions or their tracks in their home area before. (Photo by Tyrel J. Bernardini)

Excitingly, last December, after an absence of nearly two years, lions returned to an area of Westgate Conservancy known as the Core Conservation Area. This is an area set aside for wildlife by the community and one that has since become a safe refuge for carnivores. Provided there is sufficient prey here, conflict with the local communities is reduced; with carnivores spending more time in the Core Area, away from nearby villages.

Naramat resting by the Ewaso Nyiro river within Westgate Conservancy’s Conservation Area  (Photo by Jeneria Lekilelei)
Naramat resting by the Ewaso Nyiro river within Westgate Conservancy’s Conservation Area (Photo by Jeneria Lekilelei)

Livestock encroachment does, however, remain an issue and our warriors are constantly patrolling the area to ensure that livestock stay across the river and away from this safe habitat.

Warrior Watch morans, Letoiye and Yesalai, closely guarding the Core Conservation Area to ensure livestock do not encroach into this safe refuge for carnivores.  (Photo by Tyrel J. Bernardini)
Warrior Watch morans, Letoiye and Yesalai, closely guarding the Core Conservation Area to ensure livestock do not encroach into this safe refuge for carnivores. (Photo by Tyrel J. Bernardini)

Having taken up residence within the Core Area in December, pregnant lioness Naramat and her 2 year old her old son, Lentim, remained in the area until April. With the arrival of the rains, however, Naramat headed off towards the hills and away from the safe refuge of the Core Area. Unfortunately, she headed into a part of the Conservancy where there are many settlements and lots of camels. Concerned for her welfare, several of our Warriors and Scouts set up a temporary camp close to her location. Each day the warriors followed her tracks on foot to ensure she remained safe – they even discovered a small hole where she had been hiding.

Thanks to the dedication of our Warriors, Naramat, Lentim and many more lions remain safe for another day. In fact, we are pleased to report that, whilst out tracking Naramat, the Warriors discovered that she had actually given birth to two cubs!

Written by Heather Gurd – Conservation and Research Manager, Ewaso Lions

Letoiye scans the Samburu landscape for signs of lions. (Photo by Tyrel J. Bernardini)
Letoiye scans the Samburu landscape for signs of lions. (Photo by Tyrel J. Bernardini)

Comments

  1. S.W.
    June 29, 2015, 4:16 pm

    great job and well done