Monday, March 10, 2014

Maasai Warriors Become Lion Guardians

"The loss of lions has a negative effect on Africa’s fragile ecosystems.  Lions play an important role in the food chain, helping to regulate numbers of the more dominant herbivore species, such as zebra and buffalo.  Without lions to control them, these species out-compete other animals, causing their extinction and reducing biodiversity." writes Lion Alert
 The Lion Guardians were formed to protect this species.  From their website:

 Our mission is to promote sustainable coexistence between people and lion using cultural values, community participation and science.

The Lion Guardians program was developed in 2006 by the Living with Lions project and the local communities, and was initiated in collaboration with Maasailand Preservation Trust in January 2007 on Mbirikani Group Ranch in the Amboseli Ecosystem

The Lion Guardians approach involves recruiting young non-literate Maasai warriors to become actively engaged in protecting lions rather than killing them. Enrollment in the Lion Guardians program becomes a life-changing experience for these young Maasai who have had no formal education. Taught to read, write and communicate in Swahili and trained in wildlife management and conflict mitigation techniques, the Lion Guardians monitor lion movements, warn pastoralists when lions are in the area, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing and intervene to stop lion hunting parties. Collectively these efforts lead to a reduction in the loss of livestock, which in turn enhances the livelihoods of the local people and builds tolerance for lions and other carnivores. Most notably, these conflict mitigation efforts are founded on century-old traditional techniques and thus are easily understood and accepted by the community.
Lion Guardians draws its strength from using indigenous culture and traditional knowledge rather than attempting to change the culture. Transforming lion killers into Lion Guardians was possible because we have spent seven year working with Maasai communities to understand the traditional motives and symbolism of lion killing. And through Lion Guardians, we are able to demonstrate that conserving and “protecting” lions through participatory monitoring, ownership, education, and employment can bring similar prestige and status to a Maasai warrior.

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