Though lions must be one of the most exciting animals to see in the wild, they are undoubtedly very difficult animals to live alongside.
Our trip with you to Southern Tanzania is not a ‘traditional game viewing safari’, spotting lions and getting a picture of them. This is not what we’re about.
At Oryx, we recognise that people now want to understand the bigger and more important picture. How we best conserve lions. It’s a challenging and complicated story, but vital we get the solutions right.
Through our special partnership with Tusk Trust we get you highly privileged access to Oxford University’s Ruaha Carnivore Project, which is led by Dr Amy Dickman. Amy is undoubtedly one of the top scientists leading lion conservation. She is the Kaplan Senior Research Fellow at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in Oxford University’s Department of Zoology. She founded and directs the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP), which is based at a remote field camp a few miles outside Ruaha National Park in Southern Tanzania, among pastoral communities mainly belonging to the Masai and Barabaig ethnic groups. The project camp is located in the middle of an age-old conflict zone.
Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape is one of the last strongholds for lions, supporting around 10% of the world’s remaining lions. At its heart is the Ruaha National Park, a haven for lions, but at the Park edges, where villages, grazing lands and bush come together, Ruaha’s lions share their habitat with people. The consequences have been negative on both sides – lions killing livestock, lions being killed in retaliation – and the project’s main aim is to mitigate the conflict. To achieve this, the project helps village protect stock by predator-proofing enclosures and placing specialised livestock guarding dogs. However, depredation is not the only reason for lion killing – young warriors here still kill many lions for wealth and social status. Through a partnership with Panthera and the Lion Guardian project in Kenya, RCP is converting local warriors into ‘lion guardians’, who track and monitor the movements of predators, warn livestock owners if trouble is heading their way and persuade villagers to call off lion hunts. RCP has also developed strong community education and benefit programmes linked directly to the presence of wildlife, so local villagers themselves are finally reaping some rewards from living alongside these dangerous but imperilled species.
In five years, RCP has achieved startling results: retaliatory killing of lion is down by at least 80 per cent and depredation of livestock has been more than halved. This innovative work to protect lions in one of the most remote East African wildernesses has won international recognition, and Amy was a finalist for the prestigious ‘Tusk Award for Conservation’ in 2014.
By travelling with Oryx you raise money, awareness and support for this vital work. On this trip, you will visit the Ruaha Carnivore Project field camp, and will be introduced to the team and the local community with a village meal. This will be the start of a staggeringly privileged insight into the complexity of lion conservation, and the challenges of maintaining this iconic species in such a human-dominated world. After spending time learning about community-based lion conservation, we’ll go into Ruaha National Park itself, staying at Mwagusi. Depending on your time, we should spend a good few days here. During that time, amidst a traditional safari, you will be able to learn more about the ecological side of RCP’s work, and will learn (and practise!) the art of identifying lions for the project!
We recommend we take you to Tanzania either in January or February, or later in the year, say between July and the end of the year.
Again, depending on your time, we could recommend we fly you to Kenya to the Northern Rangelands Trust HQ at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy; to other Tusk funded conservation projects in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe or Namibia.
Remember, by travelling with Oryx to see a Tusk funded field programme, we give Tusk 10% of the sale and you leave a very real legacy for future generations.
We really want this trip to work for you and for conservation. It will be the most immersive wildlife experience possible.