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By Hannah Campbell

Lions are a critical part of the African ecosystem, keeping herbivore numbers under control. If the herbivore population is not regulated, the increase of competition among them could cause some to go extinct, and reduce biodiversity. They also play a part in keeping herds healthy and strong by preying on the weakest members. Lions also effect the behaviour of prey species that in turn change the spatial pressure on plants, which can influence other species and even water systems – known as a trophic cascade.

Lioness after a successful hunt. © Phil Carter.

Unfortunately, lions are in trouble. The ever increasing human population both threatens lion habitat and means lions are continuously pushed into closer contact with people, which increases the risk of human-wildlife conflict and the killing of lions in relation for killing livestock.

Lion Landscapes, Loisaba Conservancy, and TNC Africa are working with communities to reduce conflict between humans and lions by protecting livestock from attacks by lions and protecting lions from attacks by people. © Ami Vitali.

Our partner, Lion Landscapes, is working towards mitigating human-lion conflict by collaring lions in partnership with KWS. Specialised lion GPS collars are deployed and managed in order to provide livestock owners with real time lion movement data via a mobile app, developed by Save The Elephants. This is part of on-going research into how lions use human-dominated landscapes at different stages of their lives, and helps people keep their livestock away from lions or increase vigilance and guarding effort when lions are nearby. Collars also show when lions move into areas where risk of conflict is high, which gives Lion Rangers a chance to act quickly to prevent livestock form being attacked by lions and resulting retaliation. Altogether, information from collars reduces attacks on livestock and retaliatory killing of lions.

Loisaba’s Lion Rangers ready to respond to any incidences of human-wildlife conflict. © Ami Vitali.

 

Not all lions are collared, so how does Lion Landscapes choose which to collar?

There are three main reasons a particular lion is collared:

1. Monitoring Prides

Lions are unusual in that they are the only social cat. They live in groups known as prides that consist of mothers, daughters, sisters and one or more adult breeding males, with the young males being pushed out when they reach sexual maturity to ensure species diversity.

Lion Landscapes aims to collar the oldest lioness in each distinct pride, in order to monitor the prides movements and inform livestock owners when they are close to particular bomas (corals where cattle are kept at night). The most mature female lion is likely to be the leader of the group, and is also the individual at most risk of getting to an age where she becomes a “problem” lion (see below).

Imara (left), collared at Loisaba on 19th December 2019 with a member of her pride. © Jim Koenigsaecker.

 

2. Monitoring Young Males

When young males leave their maternal prides, they are not yet strong or experienced enough to take on older males to win a pride of their own. While avoiding the territories of more experienced males, they are often pushed into areas with less prey and more people and livestock, meaning they are then at greater risk of being killed either to prevent livestock loss or in retaliation.

In January 2020, Lion Landscapes collared one of five young adult males here at Loisaba in order to monitor their progress, and to help out if they get themselves into trouble!

Felix (left), collared at Loisaba on 18th January 2020 with one of his brothers. © Hannah Campbell.

 

3. Monitoring “Problem” Lions

There are occasions when lions become problematic, and repeatedly target livestock rather than wild prey. These “problem” lions are usually older or weaker individuals that are less able to hunt for themselves. Livestock prove much easier prey than zebra or antelope when hunting alone, so these lions are in much more danger of being killed in retaliation.

These lions are collared in order for them to be directly monitored, and maps of their locations sent to livestock owners. This means livestock owners are always on high alert when the lion is near and ready to prevent livestock predation. Research suggests that if you make it hard for a lion to kill livestock, and their attempts repeatedly fail, then they are less likely to try again and can eventually give up hunting livestock in favour of wild prey.

Narok, collared at Loisaba in February 2018. Narok was originally collared to keep track of her prides movements, but now cannot keep up with the pride during hunts. This means she is at more risk of coming into conflict with humans, so her movements are closely monitored.  © Hannah Campbell.

 

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Conservation and Wildlife Security

In partnership with The Peregrine Fund and Lion Landscapes, Loisaba hosted a Community Coexistence Training course at Loisaba for members of the surrounding communities. The training is designed to teach communities about the dangers and negative effects of poisoning to humans and their livestock, whilst providing individuals with the skills and knowledge to better protect their livestock and to therefore reduce retaliation killing of carnivores.

36 people from Koija, Kirimon and Il Motiok received the training. These communities were targeted as they experience high levels of human-carnivore conflict due to living adjacent to wildlife conservancies and ranches.

The training is part of the Coexistence Co-op, which is a partnership between Lion Landscapes and The Peregrine Find to reduce livestock lost to large carnivores, and stop the resultant use of highly toxic pesticides to kill ‘problem’ carnivores, and that indiscriminately poison critically endangered vultures.

Photos of the Month

Most liked Instagram photo:

Elephant © Hannah Campbell

Most liked Facebook photo:

Reticulated Giraffe © Peter Ekidor

 

Best Caption:

@gabriellafrancesca94: ‘I told you to stop and ask for directions Hank, now we’re going to be late!’

If you have any photos from your stay at Loisaba that you would like featuring on our social media, please email them stating how you would like it to be credited to Hannah at communications@loisaba.com!