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Conservation and monitoring of a persecuted African lion population by Maasai warriors
- Dolrenry, Stephanie, Hazzah, Leela, Frank, Laurence G.
- Conservation biology 2016 v.30 no.3 pp. 467-475
- Panthera leo, biodiversity, biological speciation, demographic statistics, literacy, men, monitoring, predation, rural communities, scientists, threatened species, Africa
- Although Africa has many threatened species and biological hot spots, there are few citizen science schemes, particularly in rural communities, and there has been limited evaluation of existing programs. We engaged traditional Maasai warriors (pastoralist men aged 15 to 35) in community‐based conservation and demographic monitoring of a persecuted African lion (Panthera leo) population. Through direct engagement, we investigated whether a citizen science approach employing local warriors, who had no formal education, could produce reliable data on the demographics, predation, and movements of a species with which their communities have been in conflict for generations. Warriors were given benefits such as literacy training and skill enhancement and engaged in the monitoring of the lions. The trained warriors reported on lion sign across an area nearly 4000 km². Scientists worked together with the warriors to verify their reports and gather observations on the lion population. Using the verified reports and collected observations, we examined our scientific knowledge relative to the lion population preceding and during the citizen science program. Our observations showed that data quality and quantity improved with the involvement and training of the participants. Furthermore, because they engaged in conservation and gained personal benefits, the participants came to appreciate a species that was traditionally their foe. We believe engaging other local communities in biodiversity conservation and monitoring may be an effective conservation approach in rural Africa.