Over the years we have seen countless tourists come and enjoy Kenya’s lions, and we are always amazed how many are unaware that lions are in serious trouble. We also know that hundreds of tourists and their guides are in the national reserves every day looking for lions, covering more ground than our team could ever manage alone. Lastly, we’ve had many requests through the years by safari guides to teach them how to identify the individual lions because they’ve come to know the animals and want to tell their guests more about them.
So we designed a new program that addresses these opportunities. After months of preparations, we are excited to officially launch Lion Watch, a unique partnership between the tourism community and conservationists in northern Kenya.
Lion Watch has two main functions: getting tourists to participate in research and conservation by uploading lion photos to an online database while increasing their awareness of conservation issues; and training safari guides to help them become experts on lion identification and ecology, which translates to a richer tourism experience.
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.
Tourists who visit Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves – and nearby areas – can upload their lion photos to a brand new website: www.LionWatch.org. The site was developed for us by the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders.
We recently trained the first 13 Lion Watch Guides in all aspects of lion identification, monitoring, ecology, and GPS. We provided them 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.
“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.”
We are really excited about this new collaboration between conservation and tourism. If you have any questions about the program or how you can support it, please write us. More information is available at www.lionwatch.org
Tags: Lion Watch