Archive for October, 2013

THE PREDATOR ATTACK: Blame it on the Lion?

October 16, 2013

In 2003, the worst kind of slaughter of the wild saw Nairobi National Park jungle left with only 9 kings! 11 lions were brutally killed during the wet season after the community could no longer watch helplessly as the lions day in day out feasted on their most prized possessions – Livestock. The Consolation Program which has been managed by both The Wildlife Foundation and Friends of Nairobi National Park was initiated as an emergency measure to keep the retaliation attacks by the community in check. The program and other conservation initiative by the Kenya Wildlife Service has seen the lion population in Nairobi National Park grow to over 40 individuals as identified by lion researchers Michael Mbithi and David Mascall in their June 2011 Nairobi National Park Lion ID database. The Mbithi-Mascall identified each individual lion using 6 special features on each lion; Whisker spots, Ear tears, Mane development, Missing tail tuft, Broken teeth and large injuries, and Nose spotting.

While the lion population has experienced retaliation from time to time especially when there is no funding for the Consolation program, the other predators – leopard, hyena, crocodile, wild dogs and cheetah – hardly get to experience the wrath of livestock owners who lose their livestock as prey. The lion has been targeted one occasion too many that Predation has synonymously been referred to as Lion Kills. That could be true in the case of the Lion where it is the most endangered and likely to get killed in the case of retaliation for a predation. But in the case of livestock, predation is by more than just the lion. All predators are responsible for livestock kills.

If there is more than just lion kills, why is the lion the easiest target for retaliation?

I spoke to Nickson Parmisa, a conservationist by passion and a local chief living in Triangle One (i.e. the open land south of Nairobi National Park that is closest to the Park and experiences most predation because of its close proximity). Nickson explains the behavior of the lion vis-à-vis that of other predators that makes it an easy retaliation target.

“First, it is important to understand that each of the three triangles in the dispersal range of Nairobi National Park wildlife experiences different predators. Lions mostly attack in Triangle 1 (also known as Kitengela). Triangle 2 (also known as Isinya), which is to the East of Kitengela gets most attacks by Leopards and Cheetahs, while the most common predator in Triangle 3 (also known as Kipeto and is to the West of Kitengela) is the wild dog.”

Nickson explains that Lions are at a disadvantage because of their behavior. “Lions hang around after a kill while most of the other predators disperse immediately and are not easily traceable. Lions also walk in a big group and that’s why you will find more than one has been killed in a retaliation attack.”

Not every predation case is a lion kill. The Kenya Wildlife Service Patrol team, The Wildlife Foundation scouts and livestock owners are able to identify the predator responsible through a thorough verification process that is called tracking.

The Consolation Program compliments the Wildlife Conservation Lease Program by ensuring that the wildlife protected in these dispersal area co-exist with the landowners with minimal human-conflict. The landowners who lose their livestock to predation get a small consolation payment to ease their fury and in turn they rarely retaliate and they tolerate the predators and even protect them when they are in danger. On several occasions, the community will drive stray animals back into the park when they know it is dangerous for them to be out of the park. One such incidence was when a stray rhino wandered out of the park into the Kitengela area and the community members gently drove it back into the park. With increased cases of poaching in the country, the only safe place for a rhino to be in is the park and as much as the dispersal area is open and safe for other wildlife, the community understands that wildlife such as rhinos cannot thrive in the dispersal area as they may attract an influx of poachers in the area which also puts the other wildlife and their livestock at risk. When a poacher misses his target, he doesn’t go home empty handed, he finds an alternative.


October 10, 2013

The Wildlife Foundation Community Scout Moses Parmisa elevated his status in the community by bringing home a bride. Every young man in Maasai land is expected at a certain age to get married and start a family. This effectively elevates him to a higher level of respect than that of his peers who are not married. He can now then carry on with his affairs without interference. The community is then able to entrust his with certain responsibilities and leadership roles that he could not hold before marriage. Moses is of the Ilkineku age group. The age group traditional system is one of the community’s social organization systems that have been passed on from generation to generation to generation. Moses is now no longer a boy but a man!


His beautiful bride, Jane Koinato, too is from the same Maasai community. Koinato is educated, working and of a marriageable age. The young bride represents the E-Volutionized Maasai bride i.e. the brides that have experienced the Girl Child Education revolution in Maasai land. The Maasai traditional cultural systems are still very much alive and despite the interactions the community has had with numerous other cultures, their value systems have remained one of the least influenced cultures in Africa. These are deeply entrenched in its children and are passed on from one generation to the next with very minimal cultural erosion.

Despite their deep rooted values, the Maasai are also alive to the changing world and as they pass on their value systems to the next generations, they discard practices that pull them behind and embrace those that add value to their already existing value systems.

Education, especially that of the girl child is one of the modern practices that the community has embraced. A few years ago, Koinato would have been married at the age of twelve or thirteen as a fourth or fifth wife to an old man. She would not have gone to school and her job description would be taking care of the affairs her homestead like milking cows, taking care of her husband and children. Female Genital Mutilation was one of those passage rights she would have undergone before marriage. Not so today.


Today, Jane underwent alternative passage rights to become a wife. She is 25 years of age, has a college certificate and is working and Moses has no objection to her pursuing further education. She is a first wife to a young man who has no plans of taking in more wives. But even as she enjoys these, she too appreciates her traditional roles as a wife and mother and she is keen in building her family within the Maa value system. And on her wedding day, she adorned herself with both the old and the new. Her Maa traditional jewellery complimented her Victorian white gown strongly signifying the enriching of the old cultural system with modern practices that add value to the family set up.

I ask Moses why he married an educated wife and not a twelve or thirteen year old. In response, he says, “the law does not allow me and life is changing. A twelve year old has not yet understood the realities of life and is not mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with modern day marriage set up.” He adds regarding the role of a modern Maasai wife, “she will be able to participate and contribute financially to the household. The economy no longer appreciates a stay at home wife for an average middle class family.”

David Sorimpan is also a scout for The Wildlife Foundation, a honorary warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Manager of the Olerai Conservancy, an 8,800 acres pristine wildlife jungle in our project area. David’s wife, Emily Sorimpan, is back in the classroom. Why?

Join us in the coming week as we follow Emily to class and meet other older generation Maasai women who are back in class. We are curious too as to why Sorimpan has sent his wife back to school. The Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Conservation Lease Program has seen a rise in enrolment of girls in schools by 54% in the project area in the past 13 years. We next look at how many older women enrolled in schools benefit from the Lease Program.

Emily Sorimpan, TWF Chairman Ed Loosli and David Sorimpan at their home in Olerai Conservancy

Emily Sorimpan, TWF Chairman Ed Loosli and David Sorimpan at their home in Olerai Conservancy