Lions – multi-use area

Our current count of lions in the inhabited section of Ngorongoro, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Ndutu region, is much less certain and our data very patchy. Our current best guesstimate for 2016 is 5-15 individuals, including lions occasionally seen on the Crater rim that are not Crater floor residents. One of the lions in this multi-use area is a GPS collared male, Museum, sometimes accompanied by two females. We have captured camera trap photos of a few lions in the Lake Eyasi escarpment; two adult males, including Kalamas, see below, a male with massive black mane and hairy belly, and a female with a sub-adult male. In the same area we occasionally find spoors of individual lions.

Male lion Kalamas, Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Kalamas, captured by a camera trap in the Lake Eyasi escarpment. Notice his massive black mane and hairy belly.

Lion numbers and distribution in this inhabited section has decreased notably just in the last 6 years. The pressure for grazing land is pushing increasing livestock herds into the rugged terrain and forested highlands, the best refuge for lions. In the ensuing conflicts, lions have been killed and have disappeared from most of the area. In the beginning of 2016 dry season, lion groups from Ndutu region were visiting far into this more inhabited area. Though conflict immediately surged and one lioness was killed, people demonstrated high level of acceptance, and our Ilchokuti Kinyi (guardian of lions) provided effective protection. This shows that with better protection, conflict mitigation, and some tangible lion benefits, a few lions can make a return here, and a positive coexistence is possible.

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Museum is one of our GPS-collared lions. If he grows a little stronger and teams up with another male, he may get a chance on the scene of the Crater floor, and flow in some healthy genes from Serengeti.

Unfortunately, lions have no cultural taboos against eating cows. Meat is meat. But they soon learn. Lions that have adapted to live in community land never hang around at a cow carcass, as they would by that of a wild prey. If it’s a cow, they gobble up quickly and leave.