June 2012

Big Cat Guardians Project


The decline of the lion population is a serious problem in Africa. According to IUCN (Internationally union for Conservation) a decline from up to 50% was registered over the last 20 years. The habitat of the lions has reduced due to herds of cattle and farming whereby - despite having different national parks - there is not enough space for the existence of a healthy population. Particularly during the dry season with food shortage the lions must extend their search for food to areas beyond the national parks. There they find easy prey in the cattle of the Maasai. As their way of living, the Maasai practice cattle breeding and they graze their animals on different pastures during the day and put them in livestock enclosures, called Bomas, at night. Livestock often become victims of lions both in the boma and when left out in the bush at night.A widespread method of killing among the Maasai is by spearing – mainly in retaliation to lions attacks on their cattle, but also as ritual killing to demonstrate bravery. Lions are also killed by poison.

Besides this, lions are killed for trophy hunting in Tanzania and few are indiscriminately killed by getting caught in snares intended to catch herbivores for bush meat. Out of its 2,000 lions Kenya is loosing 100 every year. Scientists estimate that within a decade there will be no lions left in Kenya if nothing is done to reverse this vicious trend. Even though Tanzania has much larger protected areas with large populations of lions, they are also declining at a very high rate for similar reasons as in Kenya. To prevent this consequential decline of the lion population, the Shumata Educational Project is looking for solutions to allow coexistence between humans, cattle and predators in the unprotected areas beyond the national parks.

By providing logistic and material needs to our partners, the Momella Foundation aims to ensure the long term conservation of lion population in the Sinya-Steppe. During this project we work together with the Lion Guardians Program in Kenya under the guidance of Dr. Leela Hazzah. This exemplary project investigates the behavior and the social structures of the lions outside national parks in Kenya . In brief , in 2011 no lions were killed in areas where Lion Guardians work compared to ten lions killed in areas without Lion Guardians. Thirty-two hunting parties were stopped by the guardians. The routes of 96 lions where recorded via GPS and radio-telemetry. The first time in history of lion monitoring all of the lionesses in the Amboseli ecosystem are with their cubs. The Momella Foundation strives to support the Lion Guardians in West Kilimanjaro region (northern Tanzania) to emulate their success in Kenya. We will support Dr. Leela Hazzah as Director of the Lion Guardians. Revenue received from Shu'mata Camp and funds we can raise from overseas will provide the needed support to implement this successful program and save lions. The Communities for Conservation Society Cologne (CCSC) likewise will be engaged in the employment of the new Lion Guardians through financial support.

The Big Cat Guardians Project protects the lions, while it puts their natural enemy, the Maasai warrior, into a position of being their protectors. As Lion Guardians the Maasai have an additional way to improve their livelihoods while simultaneously developing long term tolerance for carnivores. The duties of the Lion Guardians consist of the identification of the lions, following their movements, helping their communities to reduce livestock depredation, and preventing lion hunts.
Lion Guardians in Kenya follow lions through GPS and VHF collars. This ensures that each lion is monitored and subsequently protected each day. Each lion is given an individual name by the Guardians and thereby receives a personality which provides ownership of the lions to the Maasai.

The success of the Big Cat Guardians Project originates from the combination of ancient knowledge of the Maasai about the animals and nature as well as the new technology of the organization for the supervision of each single lion. By providing Shu'mata Camp as the base of all actions and giving the logistic and material support we will expand the action scope of the Lion Guardians in order to protect the Amboseli-ecosystem and its lion population.

We pursue a direct contact between our guests at Shu'mata Camp and the Lion Guardians to enhance public awareness according to principal conservation issues. On our Lion Guardians Tour you may accompany one of the guardians during his daily work, tracking lions and learn more about the project.

The 'Lion Guardian' experience tour costs extra.
These extra funds are credited directly towards the Big Cat Guardians Project.