Rebuilding the Pride aims to increase lion and other carnivore numbers across the South Rift, linking the Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo into a viable meta-population. The program centers on reducing human-wildlife conflict, preventing range fragmentation and maintaining healthy prey numbers. The project explores the basis of traditional practices among pastoralists that allow herders to coexist with wildlife and minimize conflict with predators. The lion will serve as a signature species for conserving other large carnivores, including wild dogs, cheetah, leopards and striped and spotted hyenas.
The South Rift region, where SORALO and ACC have been active over the last decade, offers an ideal setting and a good opportunity to conserve the large free-ranging carnivore and herbivore populations based on human-wildlife coexistence. Rebuilding the Pride is born out the success of the Olkiramatian and Shompole conservancies and SORALO’s conservation and development work across the South Rift. Wildlife populations have grown considerably in the South Rift since the establishment of the Shompole-Olkiramatian conservancies in 2000 and the deployment of local scouts. Zebra and wildebeest, the main prey species of lions, have more than doubled to 5,000 animals. Lion numbers have also grown from an estimate of 10 in 2000 to over 35 in 2010, The lion densities in Shompole and Olkiramatian conservancies (13 per 100 square kilometers) approach those of Africa’s flagship parks such as Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro--this despite the abundance of livestock and presence of people.
The main goal of the program is to rebuild lion prides (and other carnivore numbers) by promoting the coexistence of pastoralists and predators. The Rebuilding the Pride program intends to prove that coexistence of pastoral livestock and wildlife is not only possible, but is the best hope of sustaining large viable carnivore populations. Rebuilding the Pride also refers to the pride communities themselves take in conserving wildlife to their economic advantage.
SORALO and ACC recognize that the future of wildlife depends foremost on the communities whose lands it shares, and on their willingness and capacity to conserve wildlife.. The program’s three-point approach to rebuilding large carnivore populations is to:
- Reverse land fragmentation in the South Rift, thereby winning space for both people and wildlife and connecting the Mara and Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystems.
- Restore the large carnivore prey base, thereby reducing human-lion conflict and increasing income from wildlife-based tourism.
- Maintain and restore the practices that underpin coexistence between predators and people.
Rebuilding the Pride brings together a broad coalition of players to tackle a range of socio-economic and ecological threats to the South Rift communities. The team includes national and international scientists, SORALO, ACC, community representatives and leaders. Rebuilding the Pride aims to explore practices that reduce competition between wildlife and people and conflict with large predators. The program will specifically address questions relating to how Maasai, livestock, large ungulates and carnivores interact ecologically and spatially, and the factors that minimize friction.
Rebuilding the Pride is built on the evidence of traditional Maasai coexistence with wildlife and the premise that the proven avoidance and aversion techniques the Maasai use can be applied to contemporary conservation programs.
The commitment and skills of the South Rift communities and ACC are crucial to Rebuilding the Pride. Such commitment and skills lie behind the success of the Shompole and Olkiramatian conservancies, the formation of SORALO and the expansion of its activities across the Rift. Rebuilding the Pride must build the commitment and pride of the South Rift communities in order to rebuild lion prides and carnivore populations.
Rebuilding the Pride is based at the Lale’enok South Rift Resource Centre. The centre plays a central part in collecting and coordinating information, disseminating findings and linking community conservation efforts across the rift. Through Lale’enok the program will train and deploy new resource assessors and research assistants to collect, analyze and dissemination information relevant to building the framework for coexistence and conflict mitigation. Information from Rebuilding the Pride will add to information collected at Lale’enok and feed into community decisions at three levels: local herd management associations, group ranches, and SORALO as the umbrella body.
Rebuilding the Pride will feed into Lale’enok’s education and conservation outreach programs to communities and schools across the South Rift. The Maasai are renowned world-wide for their remarkable ability to live alongside wildlife, yet rarely derive any benefits from it. Lions take pride of place in Maasai traditions and ceremonies. The skills of coexistence--and the prime place that lions hold in Maasai culture and the tourism industry--will be signature themes in Lale’enok’s outreach programs to schools and South Rift communities. Taking pride in rebuilding the pride has greater salience among the Maasai than other groups. It makes them at once the main custodians and primary beneficiaries of lion conservation.