Changing Planet

Two heroic efforts to save the King of the Jungle

In celebration of Big Cat Week, National Geographic salutes the heroic efforts of conservationists to save Lion populations from poachers and habitat conflict, such as the Ewaso Lions Warrior Watch project and the anti-snaring campaign of the Zambian Carnivore Program.

Samburu warriors, left, keeping tabs on a lioness; Thandiwe Mweetwa, right, tracking a lion’s radio transmitter.


Meet the Samburu Valley warriors

Photographs courtesy Ewaso Lions

Jeneria Lekilelei, a warrior from the Samburu tribe of Northern Kenya, has dedicated his life to wildlife conservation. In 2010, he founded Warrior Watch to encourage Samburu men to conserve lions. The Ewaso Lions organization records wildlife distribution data and incidents of human-lion conflict. Since then, the local lions population has risen from 11 animals to 50. However, increased periods of drought in recent years force wildlife and people to compete for the same resources, oftentimes causing conflict.

Photograph by Tony Allport
Photograph by Tony Allport

The Warrior Watch team warns local herders when lions are in the area, to help keep livestock safe:

Photograph by Tyrel Bernardini
Ride with the warriors in this video of a team of Samburu watchers fight to protect lions under the harshest conditions.Tweet this


Meet Thandiwe Mweetwa

Mweetwa is working to protect large carnivores in her home country as manager of conservation education of the Zambian Carnivore Programme. She has dedicated her life to preserving Africa’s disappearing lion population through scientific research, animal rescue, and community outreach.  Mweetwa’s efforts have focused largely in the Luangwa River Valley, which she describes: “It holds Zambia’s biggest lion population, its largest leopard population, its second-largest dog population. So ecologically it’s a key area … important in the country, but also in the region.”

Photograph by Matthew Becker

“What makes me hopeful about the work that I do and just conservation work in general is that most of the problems are tied to human behavior.  If we’re able to influence human behavior in any way, there’s definitely a chance for species worldwide—big cats and all the other animals.” 

— Thandiewe Mweetwa

Photograph by Martin Edstrom

Mweetwa, front, and Zambia Carnivore Programme director Matt Becker, back, looking at a pride of lions. Spending most of their time in the field, they track the movement and dynamics of lions and other carnivores – like wild dogs and hyenas – throughout South Luangwa National Park and other sites in Zambia.

Photograph courtesy Thandiwe Mweetwa

Join Mweetwa in this video on a mission to track down threatened lions:

The National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative supports scientists and conservationists working to save big cats in the wild. With your help, we’ve supported more than 100 innovative projects to protect seven iconic big cat species in 27 countries and built more than 1,600 livestock enclosures to protect livestock, big cats, and people. Together we’re helping big cats and communities thrive. Learn more about the initiative.

Rolf recently joined National Geographic Society's Digital department, as Photo Editor/Digital. His career has been mostly in commercial photo art directing and re-focusing his work into conservation is fulfillment of a longtime goal.

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