Interview with a Lion Guardian

Lion Guardians is a conservation organization dedicated to finding and enacting long-term solutions for people and lions to coexist.

Please introduce yourself and your position in Lion Guardians

My name is Kikanai Ole Likamba. I am a guardian from Eselenkei group ranch and I represent the Tipilit zone on the adjacent boundary of the Porini conservation area (Southern Kenya).

Before you became a Guardian, what was your job?

I was a herder and used to take care of my family’s livestock, moving to different feeding areas depending on the seasons. I also performed my duties as a Maasai Moran (warrior) in the community.

Describe your usual day

Everyday, I go out to track lions to identify their whereabouts and warn herders of their presence. I monitor lions in both my zone and in neighbouring areas. I also respond to community requests such as reinforcing bomas and looking for lost livestock.

 

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Using GPS technology to track and monitor lions. (Photo courtesy of Lion Guardians)

Why are lions important to you?

Lions are important to me because I am employed as a direct result of them. If there were no lions, there would be no conservation jobs and my livelihood would be adversely affected. Furthermore, I received training when I became a Guardian and this provides me with a lot of prestige amongst my community.

Why are lions important for the local community and the wider society?

Lions are a major source of attraction for tourists, who visit the conservation area. The benefits generated go directly to the community. This money is used for development of projects and for school bursaries

What is the current issue facing lions and wildlife in the area you work in?

Loss of habitat is the biggest challenge facing lions and other wildlife, resulting in conflict with humans and domestic animals.

What have you noticed in the wildlife/lion populations and behaviours in the past 20-30 years?

As far as I can remember, wildlife and lion populations were rapidly declining because of uncontrolled hunting, especially outside protected areas. However, since community conservation groups were established, wildlife populations are recovering.

In terms of behaviour, in the past, wildlife and lions were scared of people, especially a red colour that symbolises a warrior, but currently they are not as afraid.

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What do the Lion Guardians do to facilitate the conservation of lions?

Lion Guardians employ lion killers or potential lion killers and transform them into lion protectors. These individuals are often influential leaders from each age-set. By providing training and employment– they build tolerance within the community. They also provide direct benefits to the local communities through training in conservation related topics, sponsorship of teachers and community assistance (such as transport in emergencies and livestock treatment).

How have the conservation efforts of Lion Guardians helped the lions and wildlife in the local area?

The Lion Guardians model is a perfect example of community participation in conservation; the employees are from the local communities and the appropriate cultural practices are maintained, which has helped create a sense of ownership of the wildlife.

What part of your work do you really enjoy?

I enjoy lion monitoring most and gain satisfaction from reporting their presence. I also enjoy helping my community searching for lost livestock.

What are the difficulties you face whilst working?

At the moment I don’t see many difficulties. However, stopping a hunting party that is determined to kill lions is quite challenging.

What has been your proudest moment working with Lion Guardians?

I am very proud of ensuring that people and their livestock are safe, especially during the rainy season. I do so by alerting herders about the presence of lions and they subsequently avoid these areas. I am also proud that I was selected as one of the top Guardians from Amboseli who went on a special trip to Ngorongoro for the Annual Lion Guardians Games.

Why do the lion Guardians hold the Games?

It’s the only time when all the guardians come to meet and exchange stories, courage and challenges faced during the year. We play together and win awards for the best performance. It’s an important time for us to celebrate our achievements and learn from each other.

What is your favourite event and why?

Throwing spears- this reminds me of our usual work as morans in the bush, where we practise throwing spears to hit a target. I also enjoy singing traditional songs with my peers.

How have the Games been perceived by your community?

Communities perceive the games as a way of building teamwork and relationships amongst guardians and with the senior management team.

What can people in your local community do to help the conservation of lions?

They should build tolerance to the lions. When livestock are killed or injured by lions, they should report the incident so that relevant solutions can be found, rather than spearing or poisoning the animal.

What can people outside your local community do to help the conservation of lions?

Organizations such as Lion Guardians have a positive impact on the ground. So sharing our successes and raising awareness about the plight of lions, greatly supports our work.

 

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Kikanai Ole Likamba. (Photo courtesy of Lion Guardians)

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