Close to 400 people turned up for the official opening ceremony of the new Ewaso Lions Conservation Centre on Saturday. Community members, partners, donors, and friends all gathered to mark this huge milestone for Ewaso Lions, and we are both thankful and humbled for such a turn out.
After having spent half the night erecting marquees, the team was up before dawn to ensure everything was ready. Soon, amidst a backdrop of celebratory song, lorry loads of community members began to arrive from all corners of Westgate Conservancy.
Arguably the most impressive entrance, however, came from our own Mama Simba ladies. Travelling by foot from their manyatta, the women could be heard long before they could be seen and, when they did arrive, came laden with gourds of milk; gifts to be used in the blessing of the new camp.
Once all the guests had assembled, our designated Master of Ceremonies, Daniel Letoiye, invited the Chairman of Westgate Conservancy to cut the ribbon and declare the Ewaso Lions Conservation Centre officially open. Led by Mzee Lalmaoi, the community elders then performed a moving blessing; chanting in unison as they filed right through camp spraying a mixture of cows milk (itself viewed as a blessing) and water (to signify that life cannot exist without water).
Then Mama Simba ladies, accompanied by other women from other locations, performed a vibrant welcoming song that had the crowd clapping along and Westgate Conservancy Management on their feet dancing!
Children from Lpus Leluai Primary School also treated the audience to a fun drama that incorporated several of Ewaso Lions community programmes; including Warrior Watch, Mama Simba and Lion Kids Camp. The children then performed a song and a lovely poem that explained how they are proud to be a part of Westgate Conservancy and encouraged their communities to join in with local conservation efforts.
In her speech, Shivani described how the project has grown from a team of 4 in 2008 to a team of 32 full-time staff today. She explained how the old camp didn’t meet the needs of the growing team especially with the long-term vision that Ewaso Lions has for lion conservation. She thanked those that helped make this dream a reality with the establishment of the new Camp. Jeneria then talked about the work of Ewaso Lions, and how crucial working with the community is for all conservation efforts.
In typical Samburu fashion, the event concluded with a prayer and an impressive feast of nyama!
It was a fantastic day of celebration and we look forward to spending many years here continuing our work for the people and wildlife of northern Kenya.
We would like to extend a special thanks to:
- The Community of Westgate
- Westgate Conservancy management
- Our donors – The Kenya Wildlife Trust, African Wildlife Foundation and Born Free Foundation for attending our ceremony
- Conservation partners including The Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Save the Elephants and Action for Cheetahs.
- The Safari Collection and Sasaab Lodge and in particular Ali and Tony Allport
- The whole Ewaso Lions team for making this a very special day
- Daniel Letoiye for expertly performing the role of Master of Ceremonies