Lions Saved from Poisoning in Tanzania’s Maasai Steppe

Warriors for Wildlife Elvis Kisimir (right) and assistant Lomoni Ndooki.
Photograph by Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld

Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld is a National Geographic grantee through the Big Cats Initiative.

She writes from Tanzania:

(PLEASE NOTE:  This post contains some graphic images.)

Warriors for Wildlife are young Maasai men selected and trained by the African People and Wildlife Fund to help promote the coexistence of people and wildlife. Some work as watchmen—monitoring lion-livestock conflicts, helping pastoralists find lost cattle, and preventing lion killings. Others are involved in protecting habitats, preserving the lion’s wild prey, and monitoring the wildlife populations roaming outside national parks. Together, they are an important force for conservation in the Maasai Steppe.

Elvis Kisimir, a Warrior for Wildlife, spends much of his time working with local community members to improve the strength of their cattle corrals by installing APW’s unique “Living Walls,” environmentally-friendly livestock enclosures that keep cattle safe from lions and lions out of the way of Maasai spears. He also monitors big cat-livestock conflicts across a wide expanse of the Maasai Steppe with a team of local assistants. When one assistant received a report of a potential lion poisoning in a neighboring village, Elvis quickly arrived on the scene to take stock of the situation.

The site was disturbing, strewn with the carcasses of vultures that had fed on the poisoned remains of a cow. Taking a closer look at the remains, Elvis found evidence of purple granules of Furadan – an agrochemical readily used for poisoning big cats and other carnivores in East Africa.

A quick discussion with folks on the scene revealed that lions had killed the cow, and the livestock owner had then laced its remains with poison in hope that the lions would return to feed again. Fortunately, Elvis’ team arrived before the lions. They quickly went to work burning the carcass to prevent any further deaths.




This is just one of several recent episodes in which Elvis and his team have saved lions from a cruel end in the Maasai Steppe. Incredible Warriors for Wildlife, they give us hope for the future. Focused on the present, Elvis remarks, “We are working to increase the number of Living Walls currently in place. If we would have reached this community, there wouldn’t be the need to use poison to kill lions and vultures. We could have prevented the conflict in the first place. That makes sense to me.”



Working to prevent conflicts between people and lions is a major component of the African People & Wildlife Fund’s Maasailand Lion Conservation Program, supported in part by the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative. There are currently 100 Living Walls installed in the Maasai Steppe, daily preventing lion-livestock conflicts and helping to avoid such terrible events as witnessed by Elvis and his team.

• Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld and her team are doing remarkable work in the Tarangire ecosystem with National Geographic’s support.   These two blogs have interviews with her.


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Meet the Author
Stuart Pimm is the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He is a world leader in the study of present day extinctions and what we can do to prevent them. Pimm received his BSc degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm is the author of nearly 300 scientific papers and four books. He is one of the most highly cited environmental scientists. Pimm wrote the highly acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet: The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth in 2001. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. He has served on National Geographic’s Committee for Research and Exploration and currently works with their Big Cats Initiative. In addition to his studies in Africa, Pimm has worked in the wet forests of Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil for decades and is a long-term collaborator of the forest fragmentation project north of Manaus, Brazil. Pimm directs SavingSpecies, a 501c3 non-profit that uses funds for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups to restore degraded lands in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity. His international honours include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006).