Closer Look: Tanzanian Community Rallies to End Illegal Lion Killings

Decemeber 9th-15th, Nat Geo WILD presents a week dedicated to nature’s fiercest felines—big cats—creatures of magnificent strength, ferocity and beauty that are rapidly facing extinction. With visually stunning and powerful stories from around the world, get closer than ever before to lions, tigers, cheetahs, panthers and more as you share in their triumphs, defeats, and epic struggles to survive.


Worldwide, lions encounter a slew of mounting dangers- everything from habitat destruction to hunting. Around Katavi National Park, Western Tanzania, the situation is unique. Whereas in many pockets of Africa lions are killed for preying on poorly protected livestock, in Katavi, lions are hunted as a result of cultural exploitation and manipulation. 

The traditions of the Sukuma, agro-pastoralists who now live in around Katavi, reward those that kill lions in response to livestock loss. As no livestock are taken by lions in the area, these traditional rewards are incentivizing some to illegally hunt lions within park limits simply for the economic gain.

Emily Fitzherbert, conservation biologist and National Geographic Explorer, has developed a program based in Western Tanzania helping to mitigate unjust killings such as these. With her Tanzania counterpart, Peter Genda, they are empowering the community to question the circumstances in which the lion was killed and so refuse to reward those who hunted the lion in Katavi. Working in the villages around Katavi, they assist the community in drawing up a strict set of village bylaws condemning illegal lion hunting and provide training for grassroot implementation of these bylaws by members of a traditional Sukuma institution, the Sungusungu.

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More about Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week

Other posts from Big Cat Week:

Closer Look: Warriors for Conservation

Closer Look: Sleeping with Lions

Closer Look: Making Friends with Technology

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