Sopa, Hujambo, Hello!

There is a South African proverb that says "Knowledge is like a lion, it cannot be gently embraced".  At Lion Guardians, we have always abided by this - we are constantly learning, adapting, and sharing. And over the last six months we have continued to place emphasis on sharing knowledge to build conservation capabilities across Africa. From leading symposiums at various conferences to building new skill sets at our core site, we are continuing to extend our sphere of influence beyond the borders of the areas where we operate. We believe that through sharing our knowledge, we have wider and more significant impacts.
We are excited to share with you some of the key highlights from the past months. As always, none of this would be possible without your support and commitment to the Lion Guardians program. 
It takes a community to conserve lions and preserve cultures, we are grateful that you are a part of ours. 
Ashe Oleng, Asante, Thank You!
News from the Field & Beyond
Photo Credit: Pride Lion Conservation Alliance
Conferences & Collaborations: 
In January, Leela, Stephanie and Eric attended the international Pathways Conference on "Conflict and Coexistence" in Nanyuki, Kenya. Lion Guardians led two symposiums and conducted a morning training session on critical leadership skills in conservation that was very well received by all participants. In late March, Stephanie attended both the Borderlands Conservation Initiative workshop in Nairobi and a meeting of the  African Lion Working Group (ALWG) in Kasane, Botswana . At the ALWG Conference she chaired a session on human-lion coexistence that was attended by Botswana's Minister of Environment as well as other dignitaries. Leela then joined Stephanie in South Africa as they met with the rest of the PRIDE Lion Conservation Alliance to chart out their plans for 2016.  They also presented the Lion Guardians model and approach at the University of Cape Town.
Knowledge Sharing Inquiries: 
Over the last few months, we have received four requests for our coaching, training, and capability-building services from countries as diverse as Namibia, Botswana, Uganda and India. The requests have also not been limited to lions; organizations working with leopards and gorillas are also interested in how we could help improve their conservation impact. We are very excited by all this interest and hope to help these organizations build their capabilities as we also learn from them. Together we will all make conservation more effective and impactful!
Extending the Guardians skill-set:
On the 29th of March, one of our supporters, a premier veterinary surgical consultant from Australia, Dr. Anaban Ghosh, showed nine of our Guardians basic wound care. We hope that this knowledge will help us to save the lives of more livestock. But as the good doctor said, "the very act of helping in this manner will further endear us in the hearts of community members. They will appreciate our efforts immensely." He also left us with a supply of medication that should last us a year. We are thankful to Dr. Ghosh for coming all the way from Australia to share his knowledge with us.
Lion population remains stable:   
The combination of El Nino rains and the arrival of many new cubs did eventually result in escalated conflict, albeit a little later in the season than expected. The Guardians were exemplary in their work out in the field under the toughest conditions and we applaud them for their efforts. We are also delighted to report that a minimum of 20 cubs have been born over the last six months, so our family tree continues to blossom. Unfortunately, the lion population also suffered some losses during this time. While the Guardians were preventing dozens of hunts over December, January and early February, there were three that that they were unable to stop. Following this, Lion Guardians and collaborators held several meetings with the community members and the elders chastised the warriors on their rash behavior, forbidding them to hunt and in some areas, even threatening to curse them if they do. Based on these community meetings, peace between lions and community members has returned. 

Launch of new Guardian management system: 
In April, we launched a new system to track the hard work the Guardians do every day using GPS data.  The Guardians are very excited with the results so far that show them walking an average of 15km per day. The leadership of all three Group Ranches in Amboseli support the new system fully and we look forward to being able to further improve our efforts on the ground with this new data.

Feature Story:  Guardians as Citizen Scientists

One of the key tenets of the Lion Guardians model is the specific use of traditional ecological knowledge blended with modern science to help us better monitor lion populations in our a reas of operation. Every Guardian was once a herder, roaming the vast plains, implicitly gathering knowledge about terrain, vegetation, water points and wildlife. Today, as a Guardian, he uses these decades-worth of  observations to make calculated assumptions about where a lion would take water and seek shelter. 

The power of this knowledge is revealed in Dr. Stephanie Dolrenry's most recently published paper "Conservation and monitoring of a persecuted African lion population by Maasai warriors". The ten years of observations of studying lions before there were Guardians and then together with the Guardians, shows how with the engagement of the Guardians, we were able to get detailed data on the lion population, their movements, predations and their home range. And also how with this engagement in monitoring and conservation the Guardians themselves began to take ownership over the lions and the conservation of their wildlife.

Read the full paper  here.

Meet a Guardian

Mitiaki Solonka is one of five Guardians from the wild and thick Loolakir area of northern Olgulului Group Ranch. Mitiaki is a lion name that means one who is in the company of brave warriors and one who will not let his companions down in times of trouble. But he would only receive this title much later in life, in fact Mitiaki's journey began, much like most other Maasai boys, as a herder.

Read his full story here.

All photographs credit Philip J. Briggs unless otherwise mentioned