The Magic Number

One of Big Life Foundation’s most important conservation programs is focused on predator protection. Recent estimates suggest that African lion populations have declined by about 50% in the last 20 years resulting in roughly 35,000 lions left in all of Africa. Big Life’s area of operation – the Greater Amboseli ecosystem – is particularly important for lions, hosting some of the largest remaining free-ranging lion populations and home to over 40% of Kenya’s lions.

Unfortunately, Maasai communities in this region have a long history of lion killing and traditionally recognize two types of lion hunting: (1) cultural – a warrior’s rite of passage to manhood, and (2) retaliatory – killings carried out by the community in response to livestock predation (despite the fact that the majority of livestock are killed by predators other than lions, such as hyenas, jackals, and cheetahs). In 2003, there were only a handful of lions remaining in Big Life’s area of operation.

In response, Big Life created a predator protection program, in collaboration with local communities. The heart of this program is Big Life’s Predator Compensation Fund (PCF). An innovative compensation program, PCF protects lions, and other carnivores in the ecosystem, by partially compensating local Maasai for economic losses from predators. In return, communities agree not to kill predators in retaliation.

It’s not often that zero is the highest mark of achievement.

In this case, zero is the magic number.

In 2018, for the second year in a row, zero lions were killed in violation of Big Life Foundation’s Predator Compensation Fund. This number represents an extraordinary accomplishment in an ecosystem where humans and wildlife are in daily competition for limited resources, with less and less space to share.

In addition to the PCF, which helps to reduce the motivation for retaliatory killing in response to livestock depredation, this success can also be attributed to several factors such as Big Life’s Maasai Olympics, which has helped replace the long-held Maasai tradition of lion hunting, as well as Big Life’s close coordination with the local community and ecosystem partners.

The reward for this hard work? Lions, like the one pictured above, peacefully relaxing on the open plains. A sight that was virtually nonexistent not so long ago.

As the lion population in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem continues to grow, Big Life is dedicated to ensuring our predator protection work continues to earn high marks. And in doing so, our hope is that lions are forever a part of East Africa’s treasured landscape.

Remember, your participation in the Running Wild Race helps to fund programs like Big Life’s Predator Compensation Fund. We hope you’ll join us race day! Register here.