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Gathering Baseline Data for Big Cats Initiative Project in the Maasai Mara

With a hundred bomas, the traditional livestock enclosures of East Africa, now fenced against predators, it’s time to set the baseline of data to be collected to monitor the success of a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative project to reduce the conflict between wild lions and herders in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region. Big Cats Initiative grantee Anne...

With a hundred bomas, the traditional livestock enclosures of East Africa, now fenced against predators, it’s time to set the baseline of data to be collected to monitor the success of a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative project to reduce the conflict between wild lions and herders in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region. Big Cats Initiative grantee Anne Kent Taylor sent this dispatch from the field:

By Anne Kent Taylor

From the Field in Kenya’s Maasai Mara–As I write, our team leader, Elias Kamande, is currently on patrol in the Mara. The team has been kept very busy fighting bush fires in the Mara Conservancy which have been started by unknown people–most probably poachers who like to lure the wildlife to congregate on the short green grass which appears after the fire dies down.

This way there is a profusion of animals which are easy to kill, using lights to blind them and dogs to hunt them in the dark of the night. The team have, along with the authorities, apprehended five men who were preparing charcoal kilns and felling hard wood trees for timber.

These men had also killed bushbuck and dried the meat–too late for these beautiful, and typically shy animals, but hopefully the poachers’ arrest will keep other animals safe.

Along with their daily patrol duties, the team is delivering rolls of chain-link fence to protect more outlying bomas.

Mara Project - 2009 211.jpg

Wire fencing materials delivered to Maasai herders by the Anne Kent Taylor Fund, with support from the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative.

Photo courtesy of Anne Kent Taylor.

Whilst Prof. Stuart Pimm was in the Mara I had 100 rolls of chain-link, purchased with the generous support of National Geographic Big Cats Initiative (thank you!) delivered from Nairobi.

Together we delivered about fifty rolls, and in the past few days the team has taken the remaining rolls to bomas throughout the nearby communities. We will now have protected well over 100 bomas since I initiated this project.

Big Cats Initiative Grant

Grantee: Anne Kent Taylor

Project: Construction of predator proof livestock enclosures in prime big cat habitats in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region

Geographical Area Served: AfricaKenyaMaasai Mara National Reserve

Field Work: 7/14/2010 – 7/11/2011

Project Description: Big cat populations in East Africa are crashing due to retaliatory killings by pastoralists. In the Maasai Mara, the problem threatens one of Africa’s most famous and important lion populations as pastoralists are increasingly intolerant of livestock predation. This project expands an existing successful project in the Mara that has effectively reduced human/lion conflict by preventing predation through securing livestock enclosures.

All blog posts by and about Anne Kent Taylor.

Now that this boma project has the support of National Geographic Big Cats Initiative (NGBCI), it is important that we operate it on a more formal and scientific basis as I believe we will all find the data to be extremely valuable and interesting.

With this in mind, I have been offered volunteer support from Dr. Mordecai Ogada, whose specialty is human-predator conflict.

Big-Cats-Initative.jpgWhen our team leader, Elias, returns to the Mara on September 15, Dr. Ogada’s intern will accompany him to visit all the bomas in the area–both protected and unprotected–so that we can begin to quantify what we have achieved so far and what we still need to achieve.

Both Elias and I are very excited to take the project up a notch by collecting important baseline data, and we are most grateful to Dr. Ogada for his involvement in this project and for donating his time. He will teach Elias how to keep the data updated once the initial information has been recorded in scientific terms.

This is a learning curve for all involved, and undoubtedly the big cats will be the ultimate beneficiaries!

Click here to find out more about the Big Cats Intiative.

Photo compilation courtesy of Beverly and Dereck Joubert

We will be delivering another 100 rolls of chain link fence next month, thereby effectively doubling the number of protected bomas in a short space of time.

Thank you again to NGBCI for believing in this project to prevent predation and for supporting our work so wholeheartedly.

The Maasai community is absolutely thrilled with the assistance they are receiving and are very happy to invest both actively and financially in the boma project. As we always say, actions speak the loudest, and we can hear their support loud and clear!

The list of people who want us to fortify their bomas is growing in leaps and bounds as the word of the success of the protected bomas spreads.

I gather that Born Free Foundation, who came to visit our project and see the bomas, is following our lead and is now adopting the same strategy of protected bomas in Amboseli National Park. I pray that they will be as successful as our bomas are in the Mara (and I see no reason why they would not be) as the lions are under siege in that area due to the high level of human and livestock/ predator conflict.

AKT checking newly installed chain link 060.jpg

Anne Kent Taylor checking newly installed boma fencing.

Photo courtesy of Anne Kent Taylor

Anne Kent Taylor was born and raised in East Africa. Several months a year she resides in the Maasai Mara. During four decades working in the safari business, she has seen growing pressures on wildlife. With the increase of human settlements around the Mara reserve, predator-livestock conflicts have grown in the Maasai bomas (traditional enclosures). Through partnership with the Maasai in community projects and fortifying existing bomas with simple methods of natural and wire fencing, the Anne K Taylor Fund has had a 100 percent success rate at preventing livestock predation and the resultant revenge killings of predators. Anne’s conservation team includes Maasai members who help educate their community to become the protectors of their own wildlife heritage.

Learn more about the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative

How to apply for a Big Cats Initiative grant

Donate to the Big Cats Initiative

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Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn