Ewaso Lions has just launched Lion Watch, a pioneering new programme that strengthens the collaboration between the tourism community and conservationists. Lion Watch has two main functions: we provide advanced training to safari guides to help them become experts on lion identification and ecology, which translates to a richer experience for their guests; and it allows tourists to participate in research and conservation by uploading lion photos to an online database and increasing their awareness of conservation issues.
“This initiative by Ewaso Lions is a fantastic one,” said Tom Lesarge, CEO of the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association. “It will not only help in monitoring the lion populations in Samburu, but trigger a passion and genuine concern for lions in all people that will engage in the programme.”
Using Citizen Science to Scale Up Lion Conservation
Lion Watch is a unique partnership that benefits both conservation and tourism in northern Kenya. Lion Watch utilizes “citizen science” to enhance lion conservation by leveraging the knowledge and presence of guides and their tourists. Select safari guides are trained to collect data on lions while they are on game drives with clients. Meanwhile, tourists learn about lion conservation and can participate directly in lion research by uploading photos of lions into an online database. This increases the scale of lion monitoring and research by Ewaso Lions in our study area.
How it Works
Tourists who visit Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and Shaba National Reserves – and nearby areas – can upload their lion photos to a new website: www.LionWatch.org. The site, which was developed for us by the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders, helps tourists identify the lions in their photos and tells the stories behind the individual lions they saw during their safari. In turn, we are able to collect more data on lions by having these “citizen scientists” helping us collect more lion sightings over a larger area and more often than we could alone. This approach was adapted from the innovative Mara Predator Project in and around the Maasai Mara National Reserve. When tourists participate, they become Lion Ambassadors and stay connected to Kenyan lion conservation from their home countries around the world.
Ewaso Lions, together with local lodges, selected 13 of the best safari guides in the area to launch the programme and become Lion Watch Guides. Ewaso Lions trained these Guides in all aspects of lion identification, monitoring, ecology, and GPS. We provide Guides with lion ID cards, aging books, and smart phones equipped with special apps for recording lion data. These smart phones allow Guides to easily collect lion IDs and locations. The data they collect is uploaded into an online database, analysed, and discussed in periodic meetings with the guides. This data will also help shape local policy for lion conservation.
“After the [Lion Watch] training, now I know more about lions and the individuals we have in Samburu. I have been watching these animals for years. Now I know their stories and can share that with my guests. They will love it.”
– Julius Lesooli, guide at Elephant Bedroom Camp
> Visit www.LionWatch.org to see how it works or upload your lion photos.
> Read our blog about training the first Lion Watch Guides.
> Thank you to the group from Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders who made the Lion Watch website!