Big Cat Guardians
The Big Cat Guardians Project cooperates with Lion Guardians Kenya to ensure the long-term conservation of big cats in the Maasai Steppe. The decline of the lion population is a serious problem in Africa. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation) a decline of up to 50% was registered over the last 20 years. The habitat of 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 shortages the lions need to extend their search for food to areas beyond the national parks boundaries. 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 fall prey to lions both in the boma and when left out in the bush at night. The widespread method of killing among the Maasai is by spearing – mainly in retaliation to lion attacks on their cattle, but also as ritual killing to demonstrate bravery.
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. 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 behaviour and social structures of the lions outside the national parks in Kenya. In brief, in 2011 not a single lion was killed in the 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. For the first time in the history of lion monitoring all lionesses of the Amboseli ecosystem stayed with their cubs. The MomellaFoundation cooperates with the Lion Guardians Program in West Kilimanjaro region (northern Tanzania) to emulate their success in Kenya. By providing Shu'mata Camp as the base of all actions and providing logistic and material support we will expand the action scope of the Lion Guardians Program in order to protect the Amboseli ecosystem and its lion population. The success of the Big Cat Guardians Program stems 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.
After a profound selection process we currently employ four Maasai warriors from different regions in the Maasai Steppe as Lion Guardians. Our guests at Shu'mata Camp are able to get an insight into the daily tasks of a Lion Guardian during a Lion Guardians Tour. While monitoring the movements of the lions on an online map and walking through the bush with the Maasai searching for the tracks of the big cats the guests learn all about the project's efforts and targets. All revenues go directly to the Big Cat Guardians Project.
If you want to take part in the conservation of Tanzania's endangered lion population you can act as a Lion Guardians Godparent and ensure the salary of one of the four Lion Guardians with your financial support.
All necessary information to support the lion guardians is listed under Lending Your Support!