Lions in Kenya: threats to their future survival and conservation

By Jake Grieves-Cook:

There has been international outrage following widespread coverage by the media after a famous lion was killed by a hunter in Zimbabwe apparently just outside the boundary of a National Park.
In Kenya lion numbers are falling, not because of licensed sport hunting but due to two other big threats.

Sport hunting for lions is prohibited in Kenya but we know how we would have felt if this had happened to any of our well-known lions, such as Lolparpit or Olbarnoti in Olare Motorogi Conservancy, or Saitoti, Saruni or Sadala in Ol Kinyei Conservancy, or Marti in Selenkay Conservancy or Mohawk or Cheru in Nairobi National Park.

Kenya does not allow hunting of lions but we face other challenges. This week lions have just killed all the livestock of a sheep farmer outside Nairobi National Park, highlighting the difficulties of conserving and protecting lions when they come into conflict with ordinary people.
The main threats to our lions in Kenya are twofold: from habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
Without protected habitat in the form of large tracts of wilderness in which they can live and where there are abundant prey species, it will be difficult for lions to survive. So the parks, reserves and conservancies are vital as habitat for lions. In the face of an expanding human population which has increased from 8 million people at independence in 1963 to over 40 million today, these protected habitats can only continue in existence if they can pay their way and cover their running costs and up to now it has been mainly tourism that provides the income required to do this.
At Gamewatchers Safaris we have been involved in working with a number of partners and with local communities to expand the area of protected habitat for lions and other species through establishing conservancies in the Amboseli and Mara eco-systems where our Porini Camps offer a low-impact form of tourism generating the income to cover the conservancy running costs. In addition to the conservancies which we were involved in establishing in Amboseli and the Mara, we also have camps in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Nairobi National Park which also contribute to their running costs.
Within the 100,000 acres of Olare Motorogi, Naboisho and Ol Kinyei Conservancies which we were involved in establishing in the Mara, lion numbers have increased and there are now over 150 lions there. Similarly in Selenkay Conservancy we now have some of the highest numbers of lions in the Amboseli eco-system.


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