Samburu warriors spend more time in wildlife areas than anyone else in their communities. They know where lions are, and they are responsible for keeping livestock safe from them. Despite their knowledge, they are almost entirely neglected from conservation decision-making. To address this gap, Ewaso Lions founded the Warrior Watch programme in early 2010.
The overall goal of Warrior Watch is to engage Samburu warriors to promote human-predator coexistence, reduce human-wildlife conflict, illustrate the value of wildlife, and build capacity of these young Samburu men.
Warrior Watch is the first programme in northern Kenya to actively involve warriors in wildlife conservation. The idea for Warrior Watch was even born in the mind of a warrior – our very own Jeneria Lekilele.
Why It Helps
Engaging Warriors instills tolerance for lions and other carnivores. In turn, the warriors spread a conservation message to their peers within their communities.
Traditional Samburu warriors do not attend school, and spend the majority of their time outside the village, thus serving as the “eyes and ears” in the bush. Through Warrior Watch, Ewaso Lions effectively taps into this resource to expand the scope of our research, and gives these young men an opportunity to obtain some essential education in return. With the help of the Warriors, we have a better idea of wildlife numbers and distribution over a wider area and on a much larger scale than we could before.
How It Works
Warriors protect livestock from carnivores and their communities from outside threats. The human-carnivore conflict mitigation work through Warrior Watch, therefore, is a natural extension of the warriors’ important role as providers of security. Likewise, the time they already spend patrolling in the field is easily adapted to incorporate data collection and anti-poaching duties.
Ewaso Lions works with local community leaders to select Warriors. We train Warriors on wildlife ecology, conservation, communication, security issues, and the value of wildlife. Over time, Warriors are trained to collect data and use GPS, allowing us to map wildlife presence and movements.
Following lion attacks on livestock, Warriors encourage herders not to take retaliatory action, and help recover lost livestock. Warriors investigate problem animals and consider different solutions for reducing livestock attacks, such as predator-proof bomas. Warriors promote conservation and tolerance of carnivores at the community level by facilitating dialog about conflict and conservation.
Each week, the Warriors meet as a group with Ewaso Lions staff to report on wildlife sightings, incidents of human-wildlife conflict (poaching, predation, etc.), community awareness meetings, and livestock issues. In turn, Warriors receive educational lessons in English and Kiswahili and arithmetic, as well as a small monthly food stipend and meals during the weekly meetings.
In the coming months, we hope to add more Warriors to the programme and continue to expand this network of conservationists. We evaluate the programme to improve Warrior Watch going forward and to make sure it is the best it can be. Through Warrior Watch, we are hopeful that wildlife will have a secure future among the local people in this part of Kenya.