Wildlife-human conflict is common in Tanzania, mostly within communities neighbouring parks. But in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, different news comes every day with positive message about benefits from lions to people than attacks.
It is home to almost 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom are traditional pastoralists relying on livestock for their livelihood.
Maasai community took lion hunting experience as a sign of bravery and personal achievement. In the past, when the lion population was high, the community encouraged solo lion hunt.
Through positive conservation strategies, communities take lions as source of both social and economic benefits rather than enemies and a symbol that would justify their bravery by killing these big cats.
Six villages in Misigiyo and Ngorongoro Wards Mokilal, Olorobi, Kayapus, Misigiyo, Loongoijoo and Kaitakiteng all located inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), have positive stories to tell about lions which roam through their grazing lands freely, not instilling fear to people. These big cats no longer attack people and their livestock.
My recent visit to Misigiyo Ward few weeks ago had exposed me to a life which the natural foes, humans and wild animals could live together in peace and harmony, including the predators, mostly the man-eater lions and leopards.
In Misigiyo Ward, life was different as I could see Maasai cattle herders grazing their heads of cattle, goats and sheep, sharing same pastures with wild animals.
The Maasai livestock keepers were taking their livestock to feed on green pastures to share the lush grass and water from nearby watering holes with wild animals.
Communities from Misigiyo and Ngorongoro Wards, each with three villages receive humanitarian support from KopeLion, the lion conservation charity, together with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority through its Pastoral Council.
KopeLion or “Simba Project” is a non-profit making charity organisation that is aimed at protecting lions through community involvement under coordination of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA).
NCAA is the government owned wildlife conservation authority with its roles targeting the conservation and protection of wildlife and nature also managing the multiple land use between the Maasai pastoralists and wildlife for tourism gains and social welfare for the pastoralists.
The Lion Recovery Fund has been established early this year to coordinate the first payment for its Conservation Incentive Payments (CIP) as a token for protection of lions in the six villages.
Each village is paid a maximum amount by counting the lion presence in the area, Sally Capper, the KopeLion’s Director of Strategy and Development told me.
So far, each village had received in February this year, a token of Tsh3 million ($1,300) over a period of four months spent to count lions present within the Maasai pastoralist communities.
The lion protection strategy was originally set up after realising that so many lions have been killed in retaliation due to the fact that these big cats have imposed heavy financial burden on the traditional pastoralists in the area.