For the past few years the Kenya Wildlife Trust has been increasingly concerned by the status of the Maasai Mara’s lion population. As it currently stands, the Kenya Wildlife Service estimates that there are fewer than 2,000 lions left in the country today, with an annual decline of 100 lions. Increasing human populations, coupled with diminishing natural prey and habitats has brought lions into close proximity with people. The Greater Mara ecosystem represents a unique study area where lions, prey, people and livestock exist at very high densities and the extent to which they co-exist is largely unknown.
The KWT has therefore formed the Mara Lion Project in order to establish lion numbers across this ecosystem in addition to identifying and mitigating the threats facing the population. The project has “science driving conservation” at its heart and its members are currently developing research questions to better understand the Mara lions.
Nic Elliot was born and raised in Zimbabwe. In 2007 he conducted an MSc in Wildlife Management at the University of Reading. His thesis focused on differing survey methods for large carnivores and was carried out under Hwange Lion Research in Zimbabwe. Upon completion of the MSc he returned to Hwange National Park as a volunteer field assistant on the same project and developed ideas for a DPhil which started in 2009. In October 2013 Nic moved to Kenya to head up the newly formed Mara Lion Project. This project was initiated by the Kenya Wildlife Trust due to growing concerns that the iconic Masai Mara lion population was in decline. Despite being one of the best known ecosystems, and indeed lion populations, on earth, there has been no long-term, in-depth research on the lion population. Nic is hoping to apply his skills in modelling movement, connectivity and dispersal to investigate movement within the Greater Mara Ecosystem in an effort to understand when and why lions leave the wildlife areas.
Niels Mogensen conducted a BSc. in Biology at the University of Aarhus and later transferred to the Department of Behavioral Biology at the University of Copenhagen for his MSc. His MSc. fieldwork researched how the Maasai and their livestock affected lion behaviour by comparing lion prides inside the Masai Mara National Reserve with lion prides outside the reserve. Following this, in June 2011 Niels formed the Mara-Naboisho Lion Project (MNLP), in partnership with the Danish Zoological Society. This project continued his research on the Mara’s lions and was located in the Naboisho Conservancy. In 2013 MNLP was absorbed into the newly formed Mara Lion Project.
Kasaine has been conducting carnivore research in the greater Mara ecosystem for over five years. After earning a Certificate in Wildlife Sanctuary Management and a Diploma in Wildlife Management from the Kenyan Wildlife Service Training Institute he earned additional experience with the Zoological Department of the National Museums of Kenya before eventually returning to the wildlife research in the Mara. From 2011 – 2013 Kasaine worked with the Mara Predator Project, studying lions living in the northern regions of the National Reserve as well as a number of surrounding conservancies along its northern border. As of July 2013, Kasaine joined the Mara Lion Project as a research assistant and is the most knowledgeable member on lions living in the Olare Orok-Motorogi Conservancy area.
Dominic Kantai Sakat is a Maasai from the Koiyaki region of the Mara. He always had a keen interest in conservation, throughout his school life he was a member of the conservation club, Friends of Conservation, and was eventually appointed club chairman. In 2007 he was enrolled in the Koiyaki Guiding School, where he attained his bronze KSPGA guiding certificate. In August 2011 Dominic joined the Mara-Naboisho Lion Project as Niels Mogensen’s research assistant. Dominic has been working in the communities in an effort to reduce human wildlife conflict, particularly regarding lions, by going to schools to teach children about conservation and conducts a community outreach programme, and visits sites where conflict occurs in order to reduce retaliation. He will continue this work in the newly amalgamated Mara Lion Project.
KWT is a legally registered trust in Kenya, with registration number 1608. Friends of Kenya Wildlife Trust is a 501(c)(3) public charity in the USA, with tax identification number 01-0909843. Donations in the USA are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law and donors receive no goods or services for their donations.
We are in the process of diversifying the ways individuals and businesses can support conservation in Kenya through KWT. Watch this space for more information in the near future!
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