Forget diamonds, pearls, gold or silver – our lions are wearing something far more valuable round their necks! You might remember back in August we replaced the worn out VHF collars on some of our lionesses with Vectronic GPS collars. Not only do these collars allow us to study our lions in greater detail, and with minimal interference, but now, the GPS data is being used to determine potential kill sites for lion prides. This, in turn, is helping both the Ol Pejeta and the community livestock owners avoid conflict with predators.
Lions cover vast distances while on the prowl, but after a kill the pride typically stay in the same place for at least a few hours, for feeding and digestion. By monitoring GPS locations every hour, potential kill sites can be identified by our Ecological Monitoring Unit (EMU).
The data also enables the EMU to analyse cluster points, which give insights into factors such as: prey distribution, species of prey, and what type of prey the lions prefer. This is essential in monitoring our endangered herbivores, such as Grevy’s zebra and hartebeest.
Knowledge of kill sites also aids our cattle for conservation programme – because the EMU can advice the Ol Pejeta cattle herders on areas to avoid, which minimises the risk of the lions preying on one of our prize Boran bulls! Similarly, this information can also be used to help surrounding communities minimise their human/lion conflict.
But why is all this so important?
Well, populations of lion in Kenya are estimated to be at around just 2,000 – down from a population of 15,000 ten years ago. This is a shocking statistic, which is down to a number of factors. Growing human settlements, competition for natural resources, and retaliation attacks from community members who have lost livestock to lions.
Monitoring lions and raising awareness is essential to try and reverse this trend. A food chain without big predators like this would be disastrous, which is why our EMU work so hard to keep track of our lion prides. There are 11 collared lionesses on Ol Pejeta, little do they know how much they are helping to protect their species!
Get hands on with lion conservation in Ol Pejeta!
Tracking the collared lionesses leads us to their respective prides, and we are working on an ID booklet to try and record each individual member of these prides. You can help! By joining our lion rangers on a track, you will experience the exhilaration of following the blips from the antenna to find a lion pride. When discovered, you can help us fill in the ID sheets for each lion, taking note of whisker patterns, markings, scars etc. These sheets are sent back to our EMU to be inserted into our database, which will help build a bigger picture of all the big cats we have resident on Ol Pejeta.