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Kenya - Supported since 2013

For the past few years the Kenya Wildlife Trust (KWT) has been increasingly concerned by the status of the Maasai Mara’s lion population. As it currently stands, the Kenya Wildlife Service estimates that there are fewer than 2,000 lions left in the country today, with an annual decline of 100 lions. Increasing human populations, coupled with diminishing natural prey and habitats has brought lions into close proximity with people. The Greater Mara Ecosystem represents a unique study area where lions, prey, people and livestock exist at very high densities and the extent to which they co-exist is largely unknown.

The KWT has therefore recently formed the Mara Lion Project in order to establish lion numbers across this ecosystem in addition to identifying and mitigating the threats facing the population. The project has “science driving conservation” at its heart and its members are currently developing research questions to better understand the Mara lions. Led by Project Director and new senior scientist, Dr. Nic Elliot, the Mara Lion Project will become a new entity for practical applied research and the conservation of lions across the Mara conservancies. Despite being one of the best known ecosystems, and indeed lion populations, on earth, there has been no long-term, in-depth research on the lion population. Nic is hoping to apply his skills in modelling movement, connectivity and dispersal to investigate movement within the Greater Mara Ecosystem in an effort to understand when and why lions leave the wildlife areas.

The Mara Lion Project will continue the conservation-oriented research on lion numbers and ecology from the KWT Mara Naboiso Lion Project but will expand this to cover in and around the existing Mara conservancies, eventually expanding to include the reserve and the new conservancies being formed to the east and south. MLP will be working closely with the Maasai communities to initiate a wide scale programme to reduce conflicts and the subsequent killing of lions. MLP will also be working alongside KWT’s new Mara Cheetah Project.

“Man has long been enchanted with the majestic lion. Throughout history, the king of beasts has been celebrated in our ancient drawings, paintings, stone reliefs, crests and modern corporate logos. The lion has taken on important symbolism to represent strength, bravery, loyalty and courage. Over a decade ago we learned that the lion populations in Africa were in a steep decline. As was once said, “There is responsibility in knowing.” I was inspired to start the Lion Pride Initiative and partnered with Dr. Laurence Frank to launch the Mara Predator Project in Mara North Conservancy. Today we are honored to partner with the Kenya Wildlife Trust’s new Lion Project and Predator Research Hub as ambassadors for the finest carnivore project in east Africa. The Masai Mara Greater Ecosystem provides a vestibule of secured habitat, human presence and livestock, and presents the perfect laboratory to help us understand lion movements and influencing trends on their numbers. This will have a resounding impact not only in this ecosystem, but throughout east and southern Africa.” John Banovich


Lion Fast Facts
Type: Mammal
Diet: Carnivore
Protection Status: Vulnerable
(in West and Central Africa they are now classified as “Endangered”)
Global population: 35,000 (approx.)
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa

Mara Lion Project Today
One of Africa’s most recognized animals and yet one of the most threatened, the African lion population has almost halved in the last three decades and continues to decline. In 1980 there were an estimated 75,000 lions, while today there are approximately 35,000 free ranging lions. They went extinct in 26 countries. East Africa represents a crucial region for the lions’ persistence as it currently holds around 57% of Africa’s remaining lions. Established by the Kenya Wildlife Trust, the main aim of the Mara Lion Project is to sustainably conserve lions throughout the Greater Mara Ecosystem.

Project Goals
Determine the current status of lions in the Mara
Identify the major threats that could be causing declines in the current lion population
Mitigate threats against lions wherever possible