KopeLion ©Andrew Wegst

Because Africa’s lions are facing serious threats, with their populations having plummeted by 43% over the past two decades, WildAid recently partnered with KopeLion in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area in Tanzania to help address this problem.

WildAid’s documentary film maker, Andrew Wegst, recently visited KopeLion, the Maasai and the lions to shoot a public service announcement video that sheds light on these conservation efforts – this is his story:

Our Land Rover moves slowly across the lush African landscape, there is no road and the going is slow and rough, but the view is magnificent. We’re on our way to a remote Maasai village or boma.

I’m traveling with staff from KopeLion, who have chosen this lonely hillside village to show me how effective and wide-reaching their work is in promoting lion conservation within the local communities.

KopeLion ©Andrew Wegst

The goal of Kopelion is to grow the number of lions through research and an active program of human wildlife conflict mitigation.

In traditional Maasai culture, a warrior proves himself by killing a lion and bringing home the trophy. KopeLion seeks to replace this long-held practice with the idea that warriors can be just as proud of protecting the lions as hunting them. This movement has been successful in several other parts of Africa and it is working here, too.

This warrior tradition, however, is not the only challenge the lions face.

Because of the close proximity between villagers, wildlife and livestock, the large predators occasionally prey on the local cattle, sheep and goat herds. This creates obvious problems and the local people seek to exterminate the threat. It’s here that the warriors-turned-protectors are most effective – they roam the countryside, tracking lion prides and alerting shepherds to the presence of the cats. The goal is to avert any negative interactions between livestock and wildlife. It works.

We arrive at the boma and are warmly greeted by the village elders and playful children. The livestock herders begin to return as we film the village and an interview with the local lion protectors.

The elders tell us that they used to have many more conflicts with lions and are very happy with the KopeLion program – they’re now less likely to lose their livestock. 

KopeLion ©Andrew Wegst

If the future of wildlife conservation is to be successful, local communities must see positive results from the extra effort required to reduce conflict with animals. KopeLion is working around the clock to forge productive relationships with the Ngorongoro residents, and to show them why a lion is worth more alive than dead.

Through tourism, the local people find financial benefits, and with the lion protectors, they see a reduction in livestock predation.

This simple yet highly effective approach is helping to guarantee the long-term survival of this iconic species here in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

You too can support this effort and visit KopeLion!

We invite you to join a 12-day trip with WildAid’s partner Fair Trade Safaris this August. With our sincere thanks, Fair Trade Safaris will be donating 100% proceeds of this trip to the KopeLion project.

For more information, trip details and to sign up for this safari, click here.

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About WildAid

WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and global network of media partners, WildAid leverages nearly $230 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too. 

Journalists on deadline may email communications@wildaid.org