Lion cubs have been spotted in prides from Kenya’s Maasai Mara, Nairobi National Park and the Amboseli park — with the number of lion cubs being born across the country suggesting a baby boom.
In the Amboseli area dominated by Maasai pastoralists and their livestock, there are now 6 to 7 lions per 100 square kilometers and the ecosystem now boasts over 250 lions as Maasai warriors who used to hunt lions as a sign of achievement are learning to monitor and protect them instead.
“We used to almost kill any lion that we hear roaring around the Amboseli Ecosystem or even see tracks even if they have not killed anything because of that traditional culture that values bravery and we used to wipe out any lion that we see here,” says Eric Ole Kesoi, Maasai community manager at Lion Guardians.
Kesoi says the Maasai would sometimes even go all the way, to the neighboring Amboseli National Park to look for lions because there were no lions close by.
“My tracking skills were evident from the word go and therefore I was very much involved in lions and tracking and what have you and those skills now, I’m using those skills to closely monitor and conserve lions,” says Kesoi.
Stephanie Dolrery, Co-founder of Lion Guardians, explains the strategic approach.
“The program we designed is in line with the traditions and cultures so it is encouraging the warriors who traditionally hunt the lions to track the lion and it is not for the weak of heart to go tracking a lion on foot by yourself, it is difficult and it is scary when the lion charges you so you have to be strong and that is for the warriors to do. Maasai are the best at that. Maasai warriors that is what they have traditionally always done so it was a natural fit to bring in lion conservation.”
For years the African lion population has been in a steep decline — with predictions of their extinction by 2050 by some conservation groups.
However, with conservation initiatives, the situation has taken a positive turn as given this cub baby boom — concrete evidence of lions being able to thrive, it appears that their numbers could be on the rise in Kenya for the first time in decades.