Our co-existence with the wild has not been all rosy. HWC has been in existence for as long as people and lions have shared land. The intensity varies with time and place, but it has always been there. It’s an inevitable part of living alongside predators. On the other hand, whenever people are determined enough, solutions are always found that benefit both man and beast. For example: Maasai’s are considered as warriors skilled at lion killing, but how many realize they mastered the art of co-existing with lions many years ago? They developed herding techniques that were perfectly geared toward preventing lion attacks on their livestock; and they used dense thorny acacia bushes as fences for their bomas (livestock enclosures) to keep out predators at night. Were these perfect solutions that worked all the time? No. There’s no such thing as a perfect solution. But they were good enough and if it wasn’t for such, there would be no Masai Mara today and you would have never seen Big Cat Diary on your television.
Obviously things have changed in the modern age. Many of these traditional practices have been abandoned, though not all, and people have become urbanized. There are new challenges to overcome. In places where people keep livestock with the risk of lion predation, different less effective fences are often used and make conflict more likely to happen.
A lot of today’s conservation issues are related to space. In protected and non-protected areas, it’s the dispersal area that is quickly being diminished. The northern, eastern and western boundaries of the Nairobi National Park are fenced as they border the urban and suburban areas of Nairobi. But the south is un-fenced to allow movement of wildlife to the open dispersal area of Kitengela, and parts of areas surrounding the park to the South. This movement has always happened, and historically large herds of wildebeest migrated all the way to Amboseli and back to Nairobi – a migration that resembled the Mara-Serengeti migration. This movement corridor was all communally owned land but in recent decades, land has been sub-divided, sold and developed which has fragmented the ecosystem. Restoration of lion connectivity would have to involve educating the general public on how to behave if they see a lion in their area. People need to understand that a lion is not going to be aggressive if it doesn’t feel cornered or threatened. Communities also need to realize that it is necessary for lions to move between different areas and in NNP’s case it might involve moving through some areas of dense human population.
Collaboration is needed between KWS, NGOs, governments and the people living in these wildlife dispersal areas with proper agreements on benefits that landowners would gain from keeping their land open to wildlife. This could be through land lease programs, eco-tourism or other means. It could even be agreements such as a community getting a school built for them in exchange for their agreement to keep their land free of unsustainable development. There are many ways that people and wildlife can benefit mutually.
Nairobi National park, the only national park in a capital city worldwide, is an epitome of this age-old co-existence between people and wildlife. It would be an extreme shame if we let the park and its lions disappear forever, only to be seen in the pictures and videos. Lets all play our part and support rather than condemn each other as we strive to conserve our priceless heritage.