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last update: August 25, 2006

   Tracking lions with GPS collars in Africa

     The LAIKIPIA Project, Kenya k

by

Laurence Frank University of California

 

 

Background

The African lion is rapidly disappearing from the wild. Fewer than 30,000 remain, half of which are in one country, Tanzania.  Elsewhere, small populations, isolated in widely separated parks, are vulnerable to disease, inbreeding and political instability.  As ever-increasing humans and livestock replace wild prey, lions outside of parks turn to killing cattle and are speared or poisoned in retaliation.  In Kenya, the Laikipia Predator Project and the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project have shown that livestock are effectively protected from lions by ancient African herding practices such as close herding, thornbush night enclosures and guard dogs.  However, traditional Masai people have now entered a cash economy: killing lions is cheaper and easier than guarding cattle.  Our approach is two-pronged: we are doing critical research on the behavior and biology of lions living in livestock country, and we are working with the Masai to integrate their own ancient knowledge and traditions into solutions for preserving wildlife.

We are currently undertaking a  detailed study of livestock-killing lions, using GPS collars to look at the foraging behavior of lions in relationship to human landuse and livestock/wildlife concentrations and movements.

 

 

Alayne and Cecil taking measurements of male lion prior to placing a GPS collar

 

 

 

 

Wearing the GPS collar

 

 

 

A lioness, immobilized and fitted out with a GPS collar

 

The three main goals of the project are:

          to devise lion conservation strategies

           to protect livestock from predators

           to ensure that local people gain significant economic value from lions and
                     other wildlife, to offset the cost of living with them.

Living with Lions is working toward the conservation of lions and other African predators outside protected areas. Most parks are too small to guarantee long term survival of viable populations of wide ranging animals such as lions, but outside parks they may kill livestock and are in turn killed by people. We are studying the ecology and behavior of lions in human-dominated landscapes, and developing ways for people and livestock to coexist with large carnivores.

 

 

First results

Three months of GPS data, taken every hour during the night, from two female lions from two prides resident on Ol Jogi Ranch in Laikipia District, Kenya.   Lions in Laikipia live largely on commercial ranches (white background) avoiding communal areas (brown backgrounds) with large numbers of livestock and humans.

 

 

 

Author's address:

 

Dr Laurence Frank: Wildlife Conservation Society;

      lgfrank@berkeley.edu

 

 

 

 

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