Target: Lion Guardians
Goal: Commend the leaders and team members behind this innovative program to protect African lions from overhunting.
Created by Leelah Hazzah, a researcher with the conservation organization Living with Lions, the Lion Guardians program has reduced lion killings and promoted the education and economic development of communities in southern Kenya since its inception in 2007. The African lion’s greatest threats are human-based – from habitat loss or fragmentation, the consequent elimination of prey, and hunting. Meeting these threats head on, the Lion Guardians program raises money to recruit young Maasai warriors who may facilitate the coexistence of wild lions and humans. The program and the individuals who make it possible must be thanked for their effective efforts at sustaining communities of African people and lions alike.
The program appeals to Maasai cultural values of respecting wildlife ecology as well as traditional conflict mitigation techniques, training Lion Guardians to protect the lions rather than kill them as per the traditional Maasai rite of passage. The Lion Guardians learn to read, write, and communicate in Swahili in order to maintain data and reports. The men receive salaries for tracking the dwindling numbers of lions using radiotelemetry and GPS. They intervene in the event of conflicts between lions and herdsman, whether recovering livestock that wandered off, warning pastoralists when lions are in the area, compensating herdsmen for livestock losses, or actually preventing lion hunts before they happen.
The Lion Guardians play crucial leadership roles in a time when little money comes from herding livestock and tourism presents a viable source of revenue. According to a feature article in National Geographic, the Lion Guardians testify to the greater benefit in keeping lions alive: “in money from tourism, wages from the Lion Guardians, and the food and education cash could buy for a man’s family,” paraphrasing a Lion Guardian named Kamunu. Thanks to the Lion Guardians and the whole team behind the program, not only lion killings but also livestock losses have decreased, and the Lion Guardian has become a respected position within the community.
Sign the petition below, and commend this original program that conserves lions holistically. Honor the Lion Guardians themselves for supporting their communities and protecting the majestic, yet vulnerable African lion.
Dear Lion Guardians and Program Team Members,
I would like to commend you on your innovative lion conservation program and congratulate you on your success in decreasing lion killings and strengthening Maasai and lion communities together. Your empowerment of young Maasai men to leadership roles testifies that wildlife conservation supplies holistic benefits on a social, economic, and ecological level. Your efforts demonstrate that collaboration to bridge cultures can work and makes sense.
Thank you for modeling originality and teamwork to conservation efforts worldwide. It is my sincerest hope that your program continues to prosper, saving lions and developing communities for many years to come.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Prabhupada News via Google