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Introducing the Lions of Tarangire

  • 02/09/09
  • Kissui

The conservation of large carnivores poses a significant challenge worldwide. In Africa, the African lion was once widely distributed across the continent, but populations have dramatically declined and in some areas disappeared due to human population increases, fragmentation of habitat and human-lion conflict has reached extraordinary levels in many ecosystems.

The remaining populations of the African lion are restricted to small and isolated protected areas, where, despite concerted protection, they are subject to unusually high mortality due to close interactions with an ever increasing human population outside protected areas. The long-term conservation prospects for lions in migratory ecosystems will depend on resolving conflicts with humans.

[caption id="attachment_427" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Some of the lions of Tarangire."]Some of the lions of Tarangire.[/caption]

Tanzania holds immense potential for long-term lion conservation prospects. Although it is difficult to obtain accurate numbers of total lions, the most recent estimates by experts suggest that less than 50,000 lions remain across the entire African continent, of which 25-50% is found in Tanzania.

I would like to introduce you to my lion research and conservation project in the Maasai steppe that I have been involved with over the past five years. The Maasai Steppe in northern Tanzania is one of East Africa’s important ecosystems with large numbers of migratory ungulates, elephants (Loxodonta africana), lions (Panthera leo), leopards (Panthera pardus), cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) and wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), to name just a few.

Maasai steppe is a complex social-ecological system with high levels of interactions between wildlife and humans. The average human population growth in the Maasai steppe has been 4-8% since 1988. The Maasai Steppe is a highly migratory system in which wildlife move seasonally across a 30,000 sq km area utilizing core protected areas as well as communal village lands. This dynamics create conditions for human-wildlife conflicts of unprecedented magnitude and complex challenges for wildlife conservation in the Maasai steppe.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="434" caption="AWF's Maasai Steppe Heartland, which includes Tarangire National Park and surrounding ecosystem."]AWFs Maasai Steppe Heartland, which includes Tarangire National Park and surrounding ecosystem.[/caption]

In this blog you will learn about the ecology of the Maasai steppe lions, including their seasonal range use patterns and demography. On the human dimension of our research, you will learn about human-lion conflicts especially retaliatory killing of predators due to livestock predation, and how we work with pastoralist communities to mitigate the conflict and promote human-lion coexistence.

The most recent incident of retaliatory killing of lions due to livestock predation occurred in the western border of Tarangire National Park. A collared lioness and a male lion from one of our study pride called Altipiano were speared to death by pastoralists following an attack on livestock.

Read more details in my next post. For now, welcome to my blog!

About the Author

Lions are rapidly declining across Africa. Bernard Kissui, AWF’s Lion Research Scientist, is working with lions and people in northern Tanzania to prevent further loss of one of Africa’s greatest animals. Kissui is studying the movements of lions in and out of Tarangire National Park and works with local people to prevent the loss of livestock which leads to human-lion conflict. Equipped with his Ph.D., field equipment, sound relationships with local communities, and fierce determination, Kissui plans to bring lions roaring back to the Tarangire ecosystem.

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AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.