Meet the Team


Shivani Bhalla  Founder & Executive Director
Shivani is a fourth generation Kenyan who believes the key to lion conservation is working in partnership with local communities. She founded Ewaso Lions in 2007 to promote co-existence between carnivores and people. Shivani’s commitment to Kenya’s lions has earned her a 2014 Whitley Award, the 2013 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation, the ‘Africa’s Young Women Conservation Biologist of 2009′ award by the Society of Conservation Biology, the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation from the Born Free Foundation, and she has been named an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic. She received her MSc. from Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, and has a BSc. in Environmental Science from Lancaster University. Previously, she has worked for the Kenya Wildlife Service and Save The Elephants.


Paul Thomson  Director of Strategy & Development
Paul has more than 10 years of professional experience in African wildlife conservation. He earned his Master’s degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies where his research focused on minimising human-carnivore conflict. Paul co-founded Ewaso Lions and provides programme strategy and organisational development. He also serves on the board of the Kinship Conservation Fellows program. Paul co-founded Save Pangolins and is a vice chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group which addresses the illegal trade in this endangered mammal. In 2007, he was selected for the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Defenders of Wildlife.


Jeneria Lekilelei – Field Operations & Community Manager
Photo of Jeneria LekileleJeneria joined Ewaso Lions in 2008 at the young age of 19 years old. At that time, he spoke limited English and saw lions only as killers of goats and cows. Since then, Jeneria has moved upward from Lion Scout to Field Assistant to Field Operations and Community Manager. As anyone can attest, Jeneria’s knowledge of lion identification, ability to transform conflict, and vast relational skills are key to Ewaso Lions’ functioning. In 2015, Jeneria won the Conservation Hero Award from The Walt Disney Company, and the Wildlife Warrior Award from the Houston Zoo. It was Jeneria who conceived the Warrior Watch programme in 2010 and has since been responsible for engaging dozens of Samburu warriors in lion conservation. “Lions are in my bloodstream now,” he says.


Heather Gurd – Conservation Manager
Photo of Heather GurdHeather first became a valuable part of the Ewaso Lions team in 2010 when she spent time in the field with us as an intern. She received a Master’s of Science degree from Imperial College London. Her thesis was a complex evaluation of our Warrior Watch programme, for which she won the prize for best overall performance. Heather now serves as our Conservation Manager, where she works with the directors and field staff to design, analyse, and disseminate results of our programmes.


Toby Otieno – Research Manager
Toby has vast research and field experience throughout much of Kenya through his time with the National Museums of Kenya’s mammalogy department and the Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia. Toby has applied his skills and over the past years to implement research design, conduct field activities, write research proposals, and author publications in peer reviewed journals. As Ewaso Lions Research Manager, Toby takes the lead role in all monitoring activities and research programme management in order to provide data to support our mission. Toby holds an BSc. in Wildlife Management and Conservation from University of Nairobi, and will earn his Master of Science in Wildlife Management from Karatina University this year.


Ewaso Lion Scouts

Lion Scouts help monitor lions and other wildlife within our study area, and keep local communities informed on carnivore movements so as to avoid conflict. Lion Scouts patrol their respective areas on a daily basis on fixed transects, collecting data on lion sightings and tracks, wild prey, and incidents of conflict with livestock. Francis Lendorop hails from the Remot area; Jeremiah Letoole comes from West Gate village; and Leshula Lenakae is from Nasunyai. Their main role is to support the research aspects of our work by collecting specific data needed to answer research questions and monitor long term population trends.


Field Team
YesalaiLetoiye, and Lentiyo make up the Field Team. These three Samburu warriors respond to human-wildlife conflict, stop retaliatory killings, and help herders keep their livestock safe. They are key members of Warrior Watch, helping mentor and train new warriors. All three young men hail from local communities within Westgate Conservancy, and show a dedication to lion conservation that inspires us all.


Thomas Ekiru – Lion Coordinator
Photo of Thomas EkiruThomas is a young Turkana man from the Ngare Mara region in Isiolo County. Thomas works for Ewaso Lions as our Nakupurat-Gotu Conservancy Lion Coordinator. He monitors lions in the area, collects data on human-wildlife conflict, engages with communities, supervises a youth group, and manages the Ngare Mara Conservation Group together with others.


Laikos Letupukwa – Research Officer
Letupukwa has transitioned from Camp Cook to Research Officer, where his work includes surveying local communities’ attitudes towards lions, collects data for our education and conflict programs, records human and livestock populations, among other activities. He comes from the Wamba in Samburu County.


Photo of Kura the dogKura is the only four-legged member of our team. Kura – meaning “Vote” in Kiswahili – turned up in our camp on the day of Kenya’s National Elections. The pup was lost, limping, and had clearly been walking through the night searching for some safety. He has since become a permanent camp member – he follows Jeneria everywhere – and has become very protective of us all. He has warned us of poisonous snakes, leopards nearby, and loudly announces any visitor to camp.


Board of Advisors


Ali Allport
Born and raised in Kenya, Ali has extensive experience in the fields of tourism, conservation, and physiotherapy. She and her husband Tony were managers of Sasaab Lodge from 2007-2012. At this time, Ali worked closely with Ewaso Lions on community-based conservation initiatives in Samburu. In 2012, Ali became Community and Conservation Manager for The Safari Collection where she implemented conservation initiatives for the company across Kenya. Ali has developed a wide range of successful programmes, including health, education, and engaging women. Currently, Ali is a member of the Ecotourism Board of Kenya, advises the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, and runs her own fitness practice.


Irene Amoke, PhD
Irene’s research interests lie in understanding the interface between wildlife and emerging land uses. She holds a PhD in landscape ecology and an MSc in Environmental Assessment & Management. During her research she investigated the ecological impacts of tourism developments on ungulate species in the Maasai Mara. She currently works as the Programs Manager for the Kenya Wildlife Trust. She is also a member of Ecotourism Kenya’s eco-rating subcommittee and a peer reviewer for the African Journal of Ecology and Conservation Biology. Irene has assisted Ewaso Lions, particularly with our Lion Watch programme, for several years.


Emma Knott
Emma is responsible for the environmental, social and governance aspects of the investments made by Althelia Ecosphere, a sustainable resource management impact investment manager. Previously, Emma has worked as a scientific researcher on large mammal grassroots community conservation projects in East Africa and Europe, where she studied elephants, lions and brown bears. Emma has also volunteered with Ewaso Lions, Save the Rhino International, and the Chagos Conservation Trust. She holds an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London and a BSc in Zoology from the University of Durham.


Nina Fascione
Nina has been a wildlife conservation professional for more than 30 years. She is currently Vice President of Philanthropy at Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C., where she oversees the organization’s efforts to raise funds from foundation, major and planned gifts for strategic conservation work. Nina had previously been Vice President for Field Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife, where she managed 30 staff members at nine regional offices dedicated to endangered species and habitat conservation. From 2010 to 2012, Nina served as Executive Director of Bat Conservation International. Nina is a co-founder and board chair of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL), a leadership training program for early career wildlife professionals. It was through EWCL that she first met Shivani and Paul. She also served for years on the steering committee of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaborative.


Susanne Offord-Woolley
Susie is the Managing Director of Save the Rhino International in London. She is responsible for leading on demand reduction programmes and managing the operations of the charity which includes staff management, supporting the charities fundraising activities, communications, events, corporate partnerships, dealing with the press and supporting the charity’s programmes. Susie has helped to organise and attend the IUCN’s African Rhino Specialist Group meetings and is also an advisor on Oxford’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Programme. She is particularly interested in strategy, project management, continuous improvement and developing new frameworks for tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Susie first volunteered with Ewaso Lions in 2011 and has assisted the project over time.