MAASAILAND PRESERVATION TRUST: COMMUNITY PROTECTION FOR PREDATORS
Prior to European settlement, 1 million lions lived in Africa. By the 1980s, the population had dropped to 200,000 due to over-hunting, habitat loss, and other human encroachment. Fewer than 30,000 lions remain in the wild today, mostly in parks and protected areas too small to maintain viable populations. Lions are key indicators of ecosystem integrity, requiring large areas and herds of prey to thrive.
In 2003, indigenous Maasai landowners entered into an agreement with the Maasailand Preservation Trust (MPT) to keep lions and other predators safe on the community-owned Mbirikani (pronounced em-bee-ree-con-e) Group Ranch in southeastern Kenya. Mbirikani is one of six contiguous Maasai-owned grazing areas which together form a natural corridor essential to the ecological integrity of four surrounding national parks. In a region where lions once thrived but are now on the brink of local extinction, the Mbirikani agreement has virtually stopped the killing of predators across more than 300,000 acres. The Predator Compensation Fund pays the Maasai for livestock that is killed by predators in return for a community-wide cessation of lion killing. MPT’s success protects lions entirely outside of parks, providing a model for conservation of critical, unprotected areas, complete with roaming prides of lions, wild herbivores, and people. The result is that no lions have been killed in Kenya’s Mbirikani for over five years. “That’s an amazing success story,” says Dr. Richard Rice, President of the Save Your World Foundation. “We have real, measurable proof that involving the local Maasai in lion and landscape conservation on their traditional lands is having a powerful effect.”
The original agreement on Mbirikani proved so successful that it has now been expanded to two additional ranches, including, most recently, the Ogulului Group Ranch, which surrounds Amboseli National Park. This brings the program’s coverage to over 1 million acres stretching from the gates of Tsavo West National Park to the gates of Amboseli and buffering the loss of livestock for some 35,000 people. Before the start of this project lions were being killed at a rate of 1.8 a month and since inception only one has been killed. This dramatic turnaround has almost certainly prevented the local extinction of this iconic predator as well as providing protection to other predators such as the cheetah, leopard, wild dog, jackal and hyena.
The Save Your World Foundation is supporting the Predator Compensation program by establishing an ecosystem wide trust to ensure uninterrupted funding for this project in the future.
Other World Class Projects