Mar 17, 2009 | Categories: Lions, Westgate Conservancy | 8 Comments

Magilani.  She is a beautiful lioness surviving by herself in the Conservation Area in West Gate Community Conservancy.  Here is her story…

Last year I was fortunate to see my first group of “Real Lions“.  These lions are community lions. They live in community areas and struggle to survive surrounded by people and livestock.  The first 3 “Real Lions” I identified moved over to Samburu National Reserve in September 2008, but one female stayed.

And this is Magilani.  Magilani is a 4 year old female.  Her name means “The clever one” in the local Samburu language.  The community scouts named her during a recent workshop I held with them.  The name suits her perfectly.

Magilani lives alone in the Conservation Area.  I have never seen her with other lions and for a long time I thought she may have cubs that she has hidden in the area which is why she never leaves.  I used to only see her tracks for days, but then finally got a sighting of her in January when she killed a donkey that had strayed into the Conservation Area.  Over weeks, we could only get a glimpse of her coming out of the thick Salvadora persica (toothbrush tree) bushes.  There is a certain gap that she normally emerges through between 6:30 pm and 7:00pm.  It is as if she is almost remote controlled!  I would sit and wait at the gap and sure enough, between that time, her head would pop out.

We would not move.  I would try and balance my camera and be ready for her to get an ID photograph.  Any movement or sound in the car would scare her off.  Often because the light was so poor at this time, I would change the ISO speed on my camera to the maximum, try to be steady (although I’ve always been so excited to see her, my hands would be a bit shaky!) and take some photos, whilst trying to look at her whisker spots at the same time with binoculars – all without moving much!


The first full view we had of Magilani – taken a few weeks ago. Photo is a bit blurry because of the time of day and I did not want to use a flash to scare her away.


We figured out in the end that she does not have cubs.  However, she still stays pretty much in the same area.  She feels safe here. But I do wonder how this 4 year old female in her prime is surviving out here by herself.  I have seen tracks of males in the same area a few times but they disappear for days and she stays behind.  She comes out of the thick bushes to hunt in the evening and returns late at night to the same place.


Magilani hiding in the bushes. Photo by Steve Kendrot.

Recently, we have worried about her because of the livestock pressure in the area.  Although I have not seen her in 2 weeks, I have seen her tracks. We are dedicating a lot of time and effort to the Conservation Area, together with the West Gate Community scouts, to try and ensure that the wildlife continue to feel safe here.

Magilani is really hiding now; coming out very briefly to look for food and then returning.  I hope that I see her soon. By watching her over the next few months, I can learn more about what makes her stay where she is and how she survives alone.  However, I am leaving West Gate within the next week to return to Samburu National Reserve and then to Nairobi. I hope she is still around when I return.

I will keep you posted on this very special female.  She is a community lion and a real survivor…


8 People have left comments on this post

» sauwah said: { Mar 17, 2009 - 10:03:44 }

boy, i feel so sorry for her already! poor lonely thing. since lions are social animals unlike other felines, she must feel loneliness, fear and longing for her sisters ( the other lionesses). one just wonders why she or other lionesses chooses to go alone or left behind? maybe she is so full of fear in the first place, therefore by following her pride mates to venture to some unknown is to much for her. or her pride mates and her are not that close. without tight bonding, such gamble will not be wise for her i think.

i hope someone will be there to watch out for her while you are gone. if i or we can buy a donkey to feed her on a regular basis, i would.

» Dana-Phoenix Arizona said: { Mar 17, 2009 - 04:03:32 }

Magilani is a real beauty! I, like Sauwah, feel sorry that she is so fearful and wish she could be part of pride. She looks healthy, so obviously must be getting enough to eat. Let’s hope she does not continue to go for ‘community’ livestock.

» ewasolions said: { Mar 18, 2009 - 01:03:19 }

She is indeed a real beauty! The lion populations outside protected areas here are so fragmented that I believe she may not have many pride mates or other females related to her in the area. She is definitely very healthy but my concern is that she is preying on livestock a lot.
I hope to collar her in May. We tried in January but she failed to enter the trap. We will try again in May because I feel it is crucial to see where this female wanders to – if she does at all.
Jeneria, one of the Ewaso Lions scouts, will be patrolling the area on a daily basis whilst I am gone. I will be speaking with him on the phone daily to see what he is finding in the Conservation Area.
Thanks for your comments!

» Dana-Phoenix Arizona said: { Mar 18, 2009 - 05:03:03 }

Thanks for you input Shivani. I too an concerned if Magilani preys on livestock in the future.

Please keep us updated on her collaring :>)

{ Sep 20, 2010 - 03:09:16 } A Week in Westgate – Ewaso Lions