Warrior Watch: Involving Warriors in Conservation
California Academy of Sciences - California Academy of Sciences
Shivani Bhalla is a fourth generation Kenyan who believes the key to lion conservation is working in partnership with local communities to deliver real solutions and ensure the long-term sustainability of not only northern Kenya’s lions but its other large carnivores as well. In 2007, she founded Ewaso Lions, a Kenya based conservation organization that uses scientific research and community-based outreach programs to promote coexistence between lions and people. It is the only project in northern Kenya to focus on lions in and out of protected areas. Bhalla’s study area covers over 1,466 km2 (approx. 566 square miles) and includes Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves and the adjacent community lands. The preserves’ resident lions are source populations for lion prides outside the reserves and therefore play an important role in the region. Ewaso Lions’ core research activities focus on understanding the factors driving lion pride establishments, their associations and movements in the wild and the extent of human-lion interaction in order to formulate strategies for long-term lion conservation. Her research makes use of conservation tools such as GPS-radio collar tracking, whisker-spot pattern identification, and scout patrols to achieve an accurate estimate of lion numbers, gain a better understanding of their movements in and out of protected areas, and assess the extent and impact of human-lion conflict. Ewaso Lions has established several community outreach and education programs to engage local people in conservation, provide training, find creative solutions to human-wildlife conflict, and give back to the community. Through her considerable efforts, Bhalla was recognized as “Africa’s Young Women Conservation Biologist of 2009” by the Society of Conservation Biology. Bhalla will be accompanied by Paul Thomson, Ewaso Lion’s Managing Director and Jeneria Lekilelei, a Samburu warrior and excellent wildlife tracker who serves as Shivani's right hand man in the field and is quickly becoming a rising star in Samburu.