Sopa, Hujambo, Hello!

This year Lion Guardians officially turns ten years old. As we look back to the start of our operations in January 2007, we realize what a long way we have come. In 2007, the team consisted of co-founders Leela and Stephanie and five Guardians covering approximately 300,000 acres. Today, there are Lion Guardians-based projects successfully running in several different countries and here in Amboseli, our operations span over close to a million acres with more than 40 Guardians and a ten-person strong senior management team.
Along with marking our decade anniversary with a special team celebration, our goal as an organization in the year ahead is to extend our impacts in the conservation space. In particular, we will provide focused customized coaching, initiate our research agenda as we work on identified research priorities and as always maintain our efforts for maximum impact on the ground.
For now though, we are excited to share with you some of the key highlights from the past months. And of course, we cannot forget that none of this would be possible without your support and commitment to the Lion Guardians program. 
It takes a community to conserve lions and preserve cultures, we are grateful that you are a part of ours. 
Ashe Oleng, Asante, Thank You!
News from the Field & Beyond

Teenage Angst - Collaring & Conflict
One effect of a growing lion population, is having more 'teenagers' around. In 2009, sub-adults (lions aged 2-3 years old) made up only 2% of the population of lions. Now approximately 25% of the Amboseli-Tsavo lion population are these youngsters trying to survive on their own. Without their skilled mothers to guide them, they often turn to taking easy prey such as livestock. Since November last year, the Lion Guardians team has had to deal with concentrated and intense periods of human-lion conflict. It has not always been an easy task when communities have suffered great losses. Two male lions, Olomartin and Oltoposat, in particular were wreaking havoc in their new territory on Mbirikani Group Ranch. As a result, Lion Guardians together with Kenya Wildlife Service, placed a collar on one of the brothers so as to monitor their night-time movements more effectively and proactively stop them from killing livestock. Read all about the recent incidences and the successful collaring of Olomartin here
LINC gets Stronger
Thanks to the continued hard work of the development team behind the Lion Identification Network of Collaborators (LINC) and the kind support from all of you, LINC software has made a huge leap in its growth and functionality in the latest development phase. During the second half of 2016 and early 2017 developers worked to upgrade the software's interface and its automated lion recognition algorithms. These new features were rigorously tested and the results have shown a substantial and impressive increase in both system usability and lion identification accuracy. The user interface has also been upgraded to maximize usability. We are working closely with collaborators across Kenya and are excited by LINC's potential to help increase our knowledge of the remaining East African lions. 
Photo credit: Kope Lion
Knowledge Sharing in Ngorongoro
In April, Luke spent a week in Ngorongoro helping Kope Lion (a Lion Guardians-based project) to set up a rigorous data collection system on past and present lion mortality. Kope Lion were extremely appreciative saying that "KopeLion would like to send a big thank you to Lion Guardians, and particularly Luke Maamai, for their recent knowledge-sharing on conflict data collection. This process requires great skill and cultural sensitivity, which Luke imparted to our team with his fantastic teaching skills!" 
Photo credit: Earth Optimism Summit
Spreading Optimism & Impact  
Lion Guardians is honored to have been selected as a speaker at both the Earth Optimism Summit and the Impact Forum. At these events, Leela shared our successful approach and also learned from other environmental innovations across the globe. 

Dedicating time to field research 
As part of our refocused vision and our newly structured research agenda, we have deliberately set aside dedicated field research time every quarter of this year. Accordingly, in February, Leela and Luke, spent time with communities in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem exploring their thoughts on changing culture and contexts. We believe this dedicated field research time will enable us to continue to be at the cutting-edge of innovative approaches to conservation. We hope to share more in the months ahead as we distill the information the team gathered. 

Our home-grown biologist team
Coming from the community close to our Center, Jeremiah joined Lion Guardians more than four years ago and since then he has become an invaluable member of the team. Starting off as our camp maintenance operator, he quickly demonstrated his strong work ethic and aptitude - leading him to move swiftly up the Lion Guardians ranks. Jeremiah has no formal education; all his knowledge comes from his life in the bush and from any hands-on training he has received as part of the Lion Guardians team. Despite this, he is one of the most knowledgeable and driven individuals on the team. Nadia joined Lion Guardians in early 2016 specifically to work on LINC as well as data integrity but she also quickly demonstrated her flexibility and willingness to take on more. So last year when the time came to hire a new biologist, we decided to team Jeremiah with Nadia as our secondary biologist response team. In January, they had to mitigate an intense period of human-wildlife conflict and they managed the situation professionally and respectfully. At our recent quarterly meeting, we assessed the performance of the Nadia-Jeremiah team and are happy to report that they were given two thumbs up from the rest of the team
Photo credit Nadia de Souza
Response to Poisoning - Training Workshop
Poisoning of wildlife is an issue that is a causing increasing concern across the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. At the end of May, Luke and Nadia trained 17 enthusiastic rangers from Big Life Foundation on how to safely respond and manage poisoning incidents. At the end of the one day workshop, the rangers felt confident about what they had learned and are looking forward to sharing their newly gained knowledge with their other coworkers.
Feature Story:  2016 Wildlife Warrior Luke and his journey of many hopes 

In 2016, our program manager Luke Maamai was declared a Wildlife Warrior by the Houston Zoo. For all of us at Lion Guardians, this honor came as no surprise. Luke joined us as a volunteer in 2008 when he simply showed up at our camp saying that he heard we were going to start work in Eselenkei Group Ranch and he wanted to join us. He said that he knew that many people will be pushing for employment and that he was willing to volunteer to prove that he had the right skills and to secure the job. And we have not looked back since. Luke is our Program Manager today and over the years he has displayed amazing work ethic and integrity that have allowed him to develop into an outstanding manager. In addition to his Program Manager duties, Luke has also represented Lion Guardians in New York City, London and at multiple sites in Tanzania for fundraising and trainings. We would like to share with you Luke's story through his own words in our feature article. Read more here

Meet a Guardian: Kikanai Ole Masarie

Kikanai was born in 1992 and spent his childhood in his grandfather's boma in Eselenkei. His parents lived further away in Entonet. Since he was six years old he has been responsible for looking after his grandfather's livestock but he also found time to play with his friends. As a young boy he enjoyed swimming with his friends in various waterholes during the rainy season. In 2011, Kikanai officially became a warrior and subsequently he participated in several hunts. None of the hunts were successful since Lion Guardians and other conservation groups intervened and stopped them. 

Read about his journey as a Guardian here.

During our decade anniversary year, each team member of Lion Guardians will share a moment, a story, an incident or a series of moments that has made a place in our hearts and minds. Follow our #TBT (throwback thursday) posts on Facebook....
All photographs credit Philip J. Briggs unless otherwise mentioned