Lion populations have collapsed from an estimated 75,800 in the 1980s to less than 32,000 today due to land fragmentation, conflict with people and loss of prey. Historically, the African lion (Panthera leo) was among the most widespread of land mammals, ranging from northern Europe through Asia and down to southern Africa. Today, lions are extinct in Europe and Asia, excepting a small remnant pride in the Gir Forest of India. To reverse this trend, African Conservation Centre US supports the Kenya-Tanzania Borderland Conservation Initiative and SORALO's Rebuilding the Pride Program in East Africa.
Kenya-Tanzania Borderlands Conservation Initiative (BCI)
The Kenya-Tanzania borderlands region supports some of the richest wildlife populations on earth through a network of national parks and reserves, as well as through the pastoral land that connects them. BCI aims to conserve large, free-ranging elephant and lion populations along the borderlands through coordination of conservation efforts between key interest groups. Coordinated by ACC, BCI program partners work together to increase community conservation capacity, train new scouts, build new scout stations, and develop rapid response units to quickly activate game scouts and Kenya Wildlife Service staff. These cooperative efforts have resulted in a significant reduction of poaching.
Rebuilding the Pride
ACC's supports the Rebuilding the Pride programme, run by the South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO), a Maasai landowner group. Rebuilding the Pride, established in 2010, is focused on increasing the numbers of large carnivores, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas, across the South Rift area of Kenya. The program explores the basis of traditional practices among pastoralists that allow herders to coexist with wildlife—minimizing human-wildlife conflict, preventing range fragmentation and maintaining healthy prey numbers.
Rebuilding the Pride established a mobile carnivore-monitoring unit to compliment their existing rapid response unit. The mobile monitoring unit tracks lion and livestock movements, identifies conflict hotspots, relays information to livestock herders, and reports cases of lost livestock and depredation to the rapid response team. Establishment of a mobile monitoring unit fully equipped with tents, cameras and GPSs has allowed Rebuilding the Pride to focus on more remote regions of the ecosystem. The unit has also worked to build strong lines of communication with local herders and herd owners allowing for the quick and effective flow of information relating carnivore movements and human-wildlife conflict.
Lion Identification System
In 2013, the team developed a new lion identification (I.D.) database allowing for photographic identification of individual lions based on whisker spots, providing new insights into the lion population in the area.
Understanding the socio-economic factors that promote positive perceptions of carnivores and foster coexistence in a human dominated landscape are an essential part of Rebuilding the Pride’s mission. The program conducts multi-site comparisons to explore these questions further. Survey data shows substantial differences in perceptions towards coexistence across communities. Southern Kenya stands out as the only site where positive perceptions towards coexistence are the norm rather than the exception. Results demonstrate that there is no one solution to resolving human-wildlife conflicts. Strategies for conserving lions such as education, land use planning, and alternative livelihoods, must build and work through community institutions, adopting practice in a case-by-case approach.
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