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, has a BSc. in Environmental Science from Lancaster University and was awarded her DPhil in Zoology from Oxford University in 2017.  Previously, she has worked for the Kenya Wildlife Service and Save The Elephants.  Shivani moved to Samburu in 2002 and lives in the Ewaso Lions Camp in Westgate Conservancy.

Jeneria Lekilelei – Field Operations & Community Manager
Jeneria 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 been promoted 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.  Jeneria and his team of warriors were featured in National Geographic in 2017.

Heather Gurd – Conservation Manager
Heather 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 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 our field team to design, analyse, and disseminate results of all our programmes.  Heather is also instrumental in the development of our Lion Kid Camp programme and Mama Simba expansion. She has written articles for the East African Wildlife Society’s Swara magazine on Lion Kids Camp and Mama Simba, and the journal Current Conservation on all the community programmes. She is currently working on publishing the evaluation results of Warrior Watch in a scientific journal.

Toby Otieno – Research Manager
Toby has vast research and field experience throughout Kenya whilst working 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 a BSc. in Wildlife Management and Conservation from University of Nairobi, and a Master of Science in Wildlife Management from Karatina University.

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 fixed transects, collecting data on lion sightings and tracks, wild prey, and incidents of conflict with livestock. Francis Lendorop hails from the Sukuroi area; Jeremiah Letoole comes from West Gate village; and Leshula Lenakae is from Naisunyai. 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.  Letoiye is in charge of all lion monitoring and is often in the protected areas searching for the park lions.  Yesalai often accompanies Jeneria to deal with complex conflict issues, and Lentiyo assists everyone when the need arises in all aspects of fieldwork.  All three young men hail from local communities within Westgate Conservancy, and show a dedication to lion conservation that inspires us all.

Thomas Ekiru – Eastern Regional Lion Coordinator
Thomas is a young Turkana man from the Ngare Mara region in Isiolo County. Thomas monitors lions in the area, collects data on human-wildlife conflict, engages with communities and supervises the Ngare Mara Conservation Group together with others.  Thomas excels at calming tensions when local community members lose their livestock and works with community members to reduce conflict.  Thomas also is a key participant in all stakeholder meetings that take place in his home area including discussions on wildlife corridors across the region.  Thomas is assisted by Samuel Lokitela who also comes from the Ngare Mara region.

Laikos Letupukwa – Research Officer
Letupukwa has transitioned from Camp Cook (he was our cook for 5 years!) to Research Officer, where his work mainly involves  field data collection and data entry. His data collection responsibilities include conducting transects, recording wildlife sightings through patrols, sociological data surveys including local communities’ attitudes and perceptions towards lions, carnivore-human conflict data, settlement and livestock mapping, and more.  Letupukwa did not have any background on research but his passion for learning, enthusiasm and support he receives from Toby, has helped develop his knowledge and research skills, which he now excels at.  He comes from Ngilai, Wamba in Samburu County and has been working with us since 2011.

Ben LejaleEwaso Regional Lion Coordinator
Ben is from Donyo Lengala in Kipsing, south of the Ewaso Nyiro River.  Ben joined our team in early 2017 and his key responsibility is coordinating the warriors activities. His other roles include: teaching the warriors how to read and write, helping in training the warriors on data collection, attending community meetings and functions on behalf of Ewaso Lions, taking a key role in collecting sociological data including community attitudes and perceptions on conservation/lions, manyatta and livestock mapping, and people census within our area of operation. Occasionally, he is also involved in vehicle transect surveys.  Ben has a passion for conservation and is interested in involving the community in the conservation of lions and other wildlife. He has an educational background on Community Development.

Peter Lenasalia – Lion Kids Camp Coordinator
Peter, who is from Sereolipi village in Namunyak Conservancy, is our Lion Kids Camp Co-ordinator. He joined Ewaso Lions in early 2017, having previously completed his Bachelors Degree in Wildlife Management at The University of Eldoret. Peter is especially passionate about engaging youth in conservation and has a natural aptitude for teaching and mentoring children. As well as organising and delivering all our Lion Kids Camps, Peter supervises students sponsored through the Jeremy Lucas Education Fund and, together with Ben, runs the weekly Warrior Watch school, where he teaches the warriors basic English, Kiswahili and numeracy. Currently, Peter is working closely with the management team to expand our Lion Kids Camp programme and provide children from across Kenya with an immersive wildlife education experience.

Munteli Lalparasaroi & Mparasaroi Lemantaan – Mama Simba Coordinators
Munteli and Mparasaroi have been the driving force behind our Mama Simba (“mother of lions”) programme. The ladies, who both come from Sasaab village, were eager to get involved in conservation and approached us asking for training and education, leading to the creation of the Mama Simba programme.  In 2016, following the expansion of Mama Simba into three new areas, the ladies took on a new role as Mama Simba Coordinators. They are now responsible for training and mentoring all the Mama Simba ladies, as well as supporting our management team in the development of the programme especially with regard to conservation workshops, wildlife safaris, the beadwork enterprise and the “bush school”. Over the years, these two ladies have become incredible spokeswomen for lions and are excited to engage even more Samburu women in conservation now that Munteli has passed her driving test.

Nape Lengiro & Lkirana Lerimara  – Camp Attendant and Camp Cook
Nape is our Camp Attendant and keeps our Ewaso Lions camp clean. He is also in charge of our vegetable patch, water well and spends a large part of his day ensuring Kura is well looked after.  Lerimara previously helped build our camp in Samburu and was trained by Letupukwa in cooking. He has since become our camp cook and is also a fantastic handy-man to have around camp. Both men come from Sasaab village in Westgate Conservancy.

Kura
Kura 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 in 2013.  The pup was lost, limping, and had clearly been walking through the night searching for some safety. He is a permanent camp member – he follows Jeneria everywhere, sleeps on Nape’s bed, loves our camp deck – and has become very protective of us all. He has warned us of poisonous snakes, leopards nearby, and loudly announces any visitor to camp.  Watch this video to see Kura dancing with the warriors!