How 2 Mortal Enemies In Africa Are Now Helping Each Other Survive

Masai warriors used to kill lions to build their reputations. I think what they do now is even braver.

There's gorgeous footage galore here, but especially cool moments are at 2:09 (adorable cubs), 6:30 (warriors get to touch living lions), and 13:40 (they get real results!).

Warning: There are a couple of graphic shots of animals hunted by lions and lions hunted by humans.

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Lion Guardians

A participatory approach to conservation

Narrator: Lions are like my cows. Now I can milk them and provide for my family. For many the African Lion is the enemy. For others the lion has become a great friend. This film will show you how man and lion can be partners for the benefit of both.

For centuries man and lion have shared the same lands in Africa, and they have not always got along. In fact, today the conflict between lion and man is so serious, it has pushed lion's populations into dangerous decline.

Lions attack and kill cattle and get killed by spears, snares or poison in return. Lions are hunted and killed for their body parts which are sold to foreigners or consumed locally.

People are taking up more space, leaving lions little room to live in, and less wild game to hunt. 60 years ago there were over half a million lions in Africa, but today there are fewer than 30,000. Very soon, the conflict between lion and man will be over, because there will be no lions left.

Africa is a very special place, and lions are one of Africa's most important animals. With the lion, Africa can thrive. Without the lion, tourists will stop coming to see wildlife and many people will lose their job. Without lions, African countries will lose tourism income and suffer.

Without the lion living in its habitat, nature will become unbalanced and the natural order will collapse leaving many living things to overpopulate and die. But mostly, without the lion, man will lose his own symbol of strength, beauty, and power. And many African cultures that revere the lion will suffer an irreplaceable loss. The decline of lions must stop immediately, as the world will never recover if we allow them to disappear.

The Lion Guardians Program was created to help stop the rapid decline of lions. Lion Guardians use Maasai cultural values and the roles of Maasai warriors to reduce human lion conflict. Traditionally, Maasai warriors act as the soldiers of the Maasai people. They defend their communities against threats from wildlife and other tribes.

The Maasai have always depended on their warriors to protect them. The Lion Guardians Program uses these strong cultural values engaging Maasai warriors and their traditional ecological knowledge of the environment to help defend livestock against lion attacks and prevent conflict. This unique approach is the foundation of the Lion Guardians Program.

Eric Ole Kesoi: The Lion Guardians Program is appropriate for Maasai culture, because, traditionally warriors are the defense of the community. They protect against encroaching tribes and predators like lions.

When we recruit warriors, the program is assigning them roles that are similar to their cultural roles and the work they already do as warriors in their community.

Narrator: The Lion Guardians Program employs a warrior in each community to monitor local lions and other wildlife. His job is to track all lions in his area on a daily basis. To do this he uses a Global Positioning System and records where he finds lion tracks and the animals the lions are feeding on. This helps create a record of the lion's activity and whereabouts.

Some of the lions in the program are collared, and the Lion Guardian keeps track of the collared lions using radio telemetry. Lion Guardians work with scientist to help with collaring, giving them a chance to get close to their lions.

Kisimir Olamayiani: The first lion I saw roaring was Sikiria, and I saw it with my own eyes. When we collared Sikiria, I touched him with my own hand, and I was very happy. I had never touched a living lion before.

The day after the collaring I saw him walking around. And to see him after I had touched him made me very happy.

Narrator: Because Lion Guardians know where the lions are most of the time, they can warn herders so they can avoid contact with the lions. And when lions do kill livestock, the Lion Guardian knows when and where it happened, often helping communities to better protect their livestock.

Lion Guardians also help their communities by finding lost livestock, and reinforcing weak Bomas.

Sakita Naanguyoo: I'm from Orngosua and neighbor to Lion Guardian Mokoi who once helped bring my ten lost cows home. And he also helped find my lost goats that went to Ilchalai. He also reports livestock depredations.

Keturai Babu: My Boma had many predator attacks, but since Lion Guardians reinforced it, I've had no further problems with predators.

Narrator: Even with conservation practices in place, conflict still happens. When conflict arises, Lion Guardians are among the first to know. And they intervene early stopping lion hunting parties before any lions are killed.

Meiterienanka Saitoti: After I killed a lion, I was named Meiterienanka. I'm now a Lion Guardian. Even though I have always been respected, this has increased since I joined the Lion Guardians team. And this plays a critical role in stopping lion hunts because I don't threaten warriors, I talk them down respectfully.

Narrator: The roles of the Lion Guardians are natural and fulfilling for warriors who have strong traditional values and know lion movements, and how to track them. Lion Guardians are valuable assets to their communities by reducing conflicts, protecting livestock, and saving lions. They make everyone's lives better.

The benefits of the Lion Guardian Program to the communities where it operates are substantial. In 2012 Lion Guardians were able to find and return safely home over 11,000 lost livestock, worth over 1 million U.S. dollars. Many of these animals could have been killed by predators if not found.

Lion Guardians have assisted communities by fencing 300 Bomas in 2012. Of these 300 Bomas, over 90% have not experienced further lion attacks.

While out monitoring lions, the Guardians also help their communities by locating lost herders, assisting with anti-poaching, and reporting suspicious movements in the area.

Munyentet Kapaito: The Lion Guardians Program is effective, as once a Guardian informed us of armed thugs close to our community which led to their arrest.

All Lion Guardians receive adult literacy and technical training. Being a Lion Guardian is a good paying job with prestige. The Guardians are respected for their "face to face" work with lions in communities that traditionally revere and honor bravery with lions.

Olubi Lairumbe: I've never been to school, but the program has taught me to fill forms, use GPS, and telemetry, and that gives me a lot of respect in my community.

Narrator: Each Lion Guardian identifies and gains ownership over the lion he monitors. Lions are named by the Guardians and deep bonds are developed. Lion Guardians are proud of their lions. And this breeds a higher level of tolerance towards lions and other wildlife in communities.

Kisimir Olamayiani: When male lion Sikiria mated with three females, they all had many cubs who are now sub-adult lions. I know all these sub-adult lions by name, and I protect them like my own children.

Narrator: Lion Guardians together with local conservation partners, including Big Life, Predator Compensation Fund, Kenya Wildlife Service, and Amboseli-Tsavo Game Scouts, have been able to stop over 100 lions hunts in 2011 and 2012. This has stabilized the lion population in the area, and a cub boom has developed. With more lions, more opportunities are available to increase the amount of jobs in tourism and conservation groups.

John Muki: Lions benefit the Maasai community in a different ways. As a group ranch, we have started a conservancy for wildlife protection. We earn a lot of money from wildlife that helps our community members with school bursaries, hospital bills, and game scout salaries, all due to lions. Many are now dependent on wildlife income due to severe drought. If not for wildlife income today, we would be suffering.

Meiterienanka Saitoti: I have come to realize that lions are beneficial because of tourism. Tourists come primarily to see lions. Since I became a Lion Guardian, I have benefited from lions because I can provide for my family. I am the same as someone who sells cattle to buy food for his family. I am respected by my community because if any lion related incident occurs, I am always there to assist community members.

Bingati Munke: if there are no lions here, there are no jobs. But, if there are lions here we benefit through employment.

narrator:< /b> Each year, the Lion Guardians team comes together and celebrates the accomplishments of their hard work in the field. Guardians join together from different countries where the program is established and come to share stories of their experiences and their favorite lions.

Different event competitions are held for the Guardians to compete in. These events include; 100 meter sprint, spear throwing, stick swimming, radio-telemetry challenge and football. At the end of the competitions each event winner gets a prize. Guardians who have proven excellence to their duties during the year are given special awards.

Mokoi Lekanayia: I've been awarded at the games twice for my hard work as a Lion Guardian.

Narrator: The goal of the Lion Guardian Program is to reduce conflict between livestock and lions, to monitor lions, to create jobs, to benefit communities, and to halt lion killing. Africa is your home and it's also home of one of the world's greatest animal, the lion. The fate of the lion is in your hands.

The benefits of living with lions are much greater than living without them. Eradicating lions in your area is not a solution for anyone. The more lions there are, the more Lion Guardians. The more lions there are, the more jobs in conservation and future prospects for tourism and Eco-development for your people. With enough lions in your ecosystem it will be ecologically balanced so that all living things can survive and thrive.

A world without lions is a world which will mourn forever. The Lion Guardians Program will help you become partners for the benefit of you, your lions, and the future of Africa.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video is both by and about the Lion Guardians organization. Want to track a few lions yourself? Why not keep up with them on Facebook?

Feb 26, 2014

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