Winner of the Whitley Award donated by The Garden House School Parents’ Association

Love for lions

Inspired by the book ‘Born Free’ by Joy Adamson, Shivani’s passion for conservation, and big cats in particular, began whilst growing up in Kenya. She is now Founder and Director of Ewaso Lions, an NGO established in 2007 to promote human-carnivore coexistence.

Shivani Bhalla profile

Uncertain future

Kenya’s lions now number less than 2,000 and could become extinct in the next two decades if action isn’t taken. This decline is due to habitat loss and conflict with humans as lions predate local livestock and are often killed in retaliation. Ewaso Lions works in the Ewaso Nyiro Ecosystem in northern Kenya a key area for large carnivores and home to the country’s third largest lion population.

Ewaso lions

Building capacity

Ewaso Lions employs effective community-based conservation and research to conserve this critical lion population. Its ‘Warrior Watch’ project, which empowers young Samburu warriors to become wildlife ambassadors, works to reduce human-wildlife conflict and improve tolerance of predators through education and capacity-building. As a result, this is one of the only regions in Kenya where lion populations have increased outside of fenced areas in the past five years.

Samburu

Shivani’s project aims to:

  • Reduce human-carnivore conflict in the Ewaso Nyiro Ecosystem by equipping people with the tools and knowledge to protect their livestock.
  • Build capacity of marginalised Samburu warriors by scaling-up her proven Warrior Watch project.
  • Carry out a lion population census, monitor prey and map lion habitat to inform conservation action.

Why it matters:

  • African lions have declined by 90% in the last 75 years.
  • Human-wildlife conflict is a major cause of lion decline in Kenya.
  • This is the first programme to actively involve warriors in wildlife conservation in the region.
“When I began studying lions, I first talked to as many local people as I could. After all – they know best!”  

Project Update

In 2014 Shivani was recognised as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. With WFN support the project has:

  • Documented an increasing lion population in the project area, with 16 cubs born in 2014-15.
  • Enabled lions to become resident within the Westgate Conservancy after a two year absence. The research area has now expanded to Laikipia County and with work in Samburu-Laikipia covers one third of Kenya’s estimated population of 2,000 lions.
  • Collared 20 lions with specially designed GPS collars to track their movements and map habitat
  • Worked with MSc researchers to developed recommendations for husbandry practices to reduce predation such as avoiding herding by children alone, using domestic dogs as deterrents for predators and increasing human activity levels around livestock enclosures.
  • Expanded the Warrior Watch programme into two additional Conservancies where human-wildlife conflict is escalating. A total of 8 new warriors were recruited and the project now has a total of 18 warriors that are ambassadors for conservation working across 4 Conservancies that span 1,742 km2.
  • Responded to 97 human-wildlife conflict cases. Retaliatory killing of lions was prevented by Warriors on 9 occasions. In addition, a cost-effective lion deterrent is being developed for local communities that use lights and sounds to prevent attacks on livestock when in their overnight enclosures.
  • Opened the new Ewaso Lions Conservation Camp in April 2015; a huge milestone. The new office accommodates 10 core staff on a permanent basis.

Full winners list