The Ewaso Lions 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 coexistence 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 minimizing human-carnivore conflict. Paul joined Shivani in 2009 to run Ewaso Lions and provide program strategy and organizational 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
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 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 program 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
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’s of Science degree from Imperial College London. Her thesis was a complex evaluation of our Warrior Watch program, 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, analyze, and disseminate our programs.
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 program 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.
Kalastar – Education Officer
Kalastar designs, coordinates, and helps carry out all our conservation education activities. These include supervising our sponsored students, coordinating logistics and designing Lion Kids Camp, teaching warriors from Warrior Watch, supervising the teacher for Mama Simba, and helping evaluate each education activity to ensure conservation goals are being reached. Kalastar is a local Kenyan, from the Samburu village of Kiltamany and is based at our Conservation Camp in Westgate Conservancy.
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.
Yesalai, Letoiye, 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
Thomas 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.
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. 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. Read more about little Kura here.