In 2012, Dr Leela Hazzah and Dr Stephanie Dolrenry made the trip to St Andrews University to represent their outstanding organisation, Lion Guardians. Founded in 2007, Lion Guardians is dedicated to finding and enacting long-term solutions for people and lions to co-exist.
The organisation recognised that lion numbers were decreasing dramatically across the African continent, conflict with humans being viewed as the main reason for the decline. One of these conflicts was with young Maasai warriors who killed the lions as a rite of passage or in retaliation for hunting livestock.
Recruiting young, non-literate Maasai warriors to protect the lions instead, these individuals are also given an education and are trained in wildlife management as well as conflict mitigation techniques founded on century-old, traditional techniques.
With a view to scaling the programme into more geographical areas, Lion Guardians entered the 2012 St Andrews Prize for the Environment.
“When we heard we were finalists, we were over the moon with excitement. It was an incredible feeling and we knew full well the impact the £100k funding would have on scaling our project if we were to win.
“Since winning the project, and in our 10+ years of conserving lions, we have reached many milestones that we are incredibly proud of. We have developed the Lion Guardians Resource and Learning Center, the Lion Guardians model has been implemented in Ngorongoro and Ruaha in Tanzania, and we are currently developing ground-breaking lion facial recognition software to help track and conserve lions across large areas. And these are only some of the highlights.”
Though the funding from winning the Prize was undeniably an important element to Lion Guardians, their experience of the Prize also proved invaluable.
“The St Andrews Prize comprises such a great network of people who are committed to conservation and sustainability. It was a privilege to be nominated alongside other fantastic projects and meet such interesting people along the way. I would suggest that any organisation that wants to apply needs to think strategically about how the Prize could scale their work. If the Prize would allow them to do this, go for it!”
Now that the organisation has passed the 10 year milestone, Lion Guardians shows no sign of slowing down in its next decade of service.
“We are continuing to scale our impact through knowledge sharing, training and coaching other conservation organizations. Being an adaptable model, Lion Guardians can transcend different locations, cultures and species. Sharing knowledge is key to achieving a long lasting impact.”
Photo credit: Philip J Briggs.