Introducing 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 is pursuing a PhD at the University of Oxford on the population size, structure and movements of lions in Samburu. 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. Shivani 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, where she promoted environmental education programmes among schools and students in Samburu.
Paul Thomson – Managing Director
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 joined Shivani in 2009 to run Ewaso Lions and provide organisational oversight and management of Ewaso Lions’ programmes at every level. Previously, Paul worked with the African Wildlife Foundation. In 2007, he was selected for the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders programme by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Defenders of Wildlife. He co-founded Save Pangolins and is a vice chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group which addresses the illegal trade in this endangered Asian mammal.
Alayne Oriol Cotterill – Research Director
Alayne brings over 20 years of experience in African wildlife conservation and research to Ewaso Lions. Her primary area of interest is improving human-carnivore coexistence where large carnivores share the landscape with people and livestock. Alayne’s recent PhD research (2009-2013) with Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit looked at the effects of human-caused mortality on lion behavioural ecology and demography. As part of her M.Sc. (1995), Alayne carried out the first cost-benefit analysis for including lions in the growing private wildlife reserves in Southern Africa. From 2004-2013, Alayne led the Laikipia Predator Project under Laurence Frank’s Living With Lions. She joins Ewaso Lions as director of research, overseeing all research programmes, including the continuation of her research in to lion behavioural responses to risk of human caused mortality, and a new study on the dispersal of lions through Laikipia and Samburu Counties.
Jeneria Lekilele – Field Operations and 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. 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 and Research 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 programme, for which she won the prize for best overall performance. Heather now serves as our Conservation and Research Manager, where she works with the directors and field staff to design, analyze, and disseminate our programmes.
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, supporting Wildlife Clubs, teaching warriors from the Warrior Watch program, 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.
Ngila Ltenesi – Research Officer
Ngila continually holds dialog with community members across our study area to spread a conservation message, respond to instances of human-wildlife conflict, and collect census information on human population and settlements. As the liaison between Ewaso Lions and local communities, he listens to what people have to say, and this invaluable feedback ensures that our community programmes are most effective.
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. Moses Letitiya hails from Sasaab village; Francis Lendorop lives in the Remot area; Jeremiah Letoole comes from West Gate village; and Leshula Lenakae is from Nasunyai. 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. Scouts also interact with the local people, helping reduce potential human-carnivore conflict, and increasing awareness of the importance of lions and their conservation in this key region. 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, Lpuresi, and Letoiye make up the Field Team. These three Samburu warriors respond to all 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.
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 collects all data on human-wildlife conflict in the region, engages with communities on lion issues, monitors the Lion Lights that have been installed in the area, and manages the Ngare Mara Conservation Group together with others.
Laikos Letupukwa – Camp Cook
Letupukwa is the Ewaso Lions Camp cook and helps maintain camp. He comes from the Wamba area near Westgate and was formally trained at a hotel on the Kenyan coast. He keeps our team well fed and fueled for the field.
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 and Moses 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.