Conservation biologist and 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Shivani Bhalla, a fourth-generation Kenyan, is working to safeguard the future of Kenya’s rapidly declining lion populations. She is founder and executive director of Ewaso Lions, a conservation organization that uses scientific research and community outreach to promote coexistence between people and lions who share habitats. It is the only organization that focuses on lions that live both inside and outside protected areas in northern Kenya. There are now fewer than 2,000 lions in Kenya, and they could vanish within two decades if habitat loss and conflict with humans continues. Ewaso Lions’ innovative community outreach programs, which involve young tribal warriors as well as women and children, are helping foster local support for conservation. Her team has dramatically changed local attitudes and the lion population she monitors has grown to its highest numbers in a dozen years.
Dr. Dickman founded the Ruaha Carnivove Programme in 2009. She is based at the University of Oxford with the WildCRU department. She started carnivore research near Ruaha National Park, Tanzania in 2004 because of its global importantce for carnivore conservation—about 10% of the global lion population, one of four large Cheetah populations in East Africa, and the third largest population of African wild dogs. With the help of BCI, Amy has expanded her research on human-carnivore conflict in the region and implemented actions to disrupt the cycle of conflict and retaliatory killing. Her program is also collaborating with local organizations. For instance, she is adapting the Living Walls method of fortifying bomas from the African People and Wildlife Fund to protect livestock.
Dereck and Beverly Joubert
Dereck and Beverly Joubert are award-winning filmmakers and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, who have been filming, researching, and exploring in Africa for over 30 years. Their mission is to save the wild places of Africa and to protect the creatures that depend on them. They are the co-founders of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, which is dedicated to halting the decline of big cats in the wild through on-the-ground conservation efforts and education. They have made 25 films for National Geographic including “The Last Lions” which has reached over 350 million people. The Jouberts have received many accolades including eight Emmys, Lifetime Achievement awards, Peabody, Panda awards, World Ecology Award and an induction into the American Academy of Achievement. Beverly is also an acclaimed photographer and Dereck is CEO of Great Plains Conservation, a company that returns vast tracts of land back to nature.
Laly Lichtenfeld is the cofounder of the African People and Wildlife Fund (APW), along with her husband Charles Trout. The organization is located in the Maasai Steppe, a globally important location for lions, cheetahs, and other carnivores spanning northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. APW, a community-focused conservation organization, is credited with developing living walls, or bomas, a livestock protection measure intertwining native plants with chain link fencing. Once installed, bomas effectively prevent livestock death to carnivores. APW also supports community initiatives including rangeland management and wildlife clubs.
When asked why she has decided to dedicate her life to lions, Laly says, “Looking a lion in the eye and seeing that wilderness which is disappearing from the world and wanting to prevent that irreversible, unfathomable loss…The nighttime sounds of the bush, the local people I work with, the great vistas of the Maasai Steppe, the excitement of success, and the desire to overcome tomorrow’s challenges: all of these things are under my skin and in my blood.”
Anne Kent Taylor, born and raised in East Africa, became a witness to the pressure on wildlife over decades of operating her own safari business. After seeing first-hand the suffering of animals with injuries from illegal poachers' wire snares, arrows, and spears, she decided to do something about it and founded the Anne K. Taylor Fund (AKTF). She works closely with a team of people from local Maasai communities who know the forests and understand the wildlife. Together, they operate numerous patrols and have saved several thousands of animals. She also collaborates with Maasai to confront their biggest challenge of living with wildlife: predation of their livestock. This often results in the killing of lions and other big cats out of retaliation. Through support from BCI and local Maasai livestock owners, Anne leads an effort to create eight-foot chain-link fences, called bomas, to strengthen livestock enclosures and thus prevent predation.