Tag Archives: Lions

NTV Wild Talk: Season 1 & 2 Episodes

WildlifeDirect has partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service and NTV to bring you NTV Wild, a program that brings award winning documentaries on wildlife and also provides the platform for debate and discussion with experts on Kenya’s wildlife, its conservation and why it matters so much.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E1

“The mystery of Mzima”
Smriti Vidyarthi visits Mzima springs to bring a story about the spring that would be lifeless without hippos. A world class site that is amazing.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E2
“Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”
Smriti Vidyarthi engages US ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Robert F. Godec and the US Secretary – Interior Sally Jewell as #NTVWild talk focuses on US-Kenya relations in protecting our wildlife

NTV Wild Talk S1 E3
“Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at wildlife trafficking and wildlife crime.

TV Wild Talk S1 E4
“Saving Kenya’s big cats”
From the seventh wonder of the world, Maasai Mara is home to the largest population of lions. Smriti Vidyarthi share the incredible life stories of two cat families.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E5
“Safeguarding Karura Forest”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at whether Karura forest is under threat or not. The show looks at the struggles to save Karura forest from land grabbers.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E6
“Wildlife Newbies & Champions”
Smriti Vidyarthi speaks to some of the new faces linked with protection of wildlife.

Read More »

#NTVWild panel discussion: Understanding the wild in Kenya with Jonathan Scott

It was a pleasure to listen and watch Jonathan Scott LIVE in studio. Many have watched him on Big Cat Diaries but few have ever met him. Along with Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect CEO and Paula Mbugua from KWS, they talked about the new series #NTVWild that Premieres on NTV KENYA on Saturday January 16, 2016

Watch the discussion here:




NTV WILD Season Premiere on 16th January 2016

We are proud to announce the official premier of NTV Wild, a partnership between NTV one of Kenya’s premier broadcasters, WildlifeDirect and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, KWS and WildlifeDirect. The first ever broadcasting of the Award winning wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa every Saturday.

We will awaken your sense of awe and wonder at our magnificent wildlife heritage, which you own and have a responsibility for protecting.

Help us save it. Visit our magnificent parks, and take actions against anything that threatens our protected areas, wildlife spectacles, wild landscapes and endangered species.

Tune in every Saturday (from the 16th of January) at 8 pm. Share this widely through your networks and on social media using the hasthag NTVWild
We look forward to your feed back


The Marsh Pride: end of an era

Jonathan Scott: The poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride, the world’s best known lions, highlights the need for a lasting solution to human–wildlife conflict in Africa


Lioness Bibi in her prime in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Bibi was a member of the Marsh Pride that featured in the BBC TV series “Big Cat Diary” from 1996 to 2008. Bibi died on 6 December 2015 after being poisoned along with other members of the pride. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

Lioness Bibi in her prime in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Bibi was a member of the Marsh Pride that featured in the BBC TV series “Big Cat Diary” from 1996 to 2008. Bibi died on 6 December 2015 after being poisoned along with other members of the pride. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

On Sunday morning (6 December 2015) news broke of the poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride. These are the lions that Angela and I have followed since 1977 and were the stars of our “Big Cat” TV series, that documented the fascinating and often tumultuous life of the pride over a period of more than 12 years.

The Marsh Pride occupies a territory on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, one of Africa’s foremost protected areas. All members of the “big five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and black rhinoceros) are found on the vast plains of the Mara, plus a wealth of other wildlife.

On Saturday night, the lions had killed cattle belonging to a family living near the reserve. In retaliation, a member of the family sprinkled pesticide onto the carcass, knowing that the lions would return. He was intentionally trying to kill them. How many lions have died as a result is still unclear.


The body of Marsh Lioness Bibi, who died from poisoning at 7.30 am on Sunday 6 December 2015, along with other members of the Marsh Pride. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The body of Marsh Lioness Bibi, who died from poisoning at 7.30 am on Sunday 6 December 2015, along with other members of the Marsh Pride. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

I wish I could say that this was shocking news, but there is nothing shocking any more about what is happening in the Masai Mara. Tens of thousands of cattle encroach in to the Reserve every night when visitors are safely out of sight – but when the likelihood of conflict with predators such as lions and hyenas is at its greatest. This makes no sense.

This sorry state of affairs is testimony to the appalling management of the Reserve east of the river. This is a situation that has existed for at least as long as I have known the Masai Mara. Management failures contributed to the precipitous decline in the Mara’s black rhino population from an estimated 150 to 200 in the 1960s to just 11 by 1983 (it has risen again to between 30 and 40).

The BBC filmed the hugely popular TV series ‘Big Cat Diary’ in Marsh Pride territory from 1996 to 2008. Our base in the Mara was – and still is – a stone cottage at Governor’s Camp. This is a safari camp set in the heart of the reserve, in the vicinity of the glorious Musiara Marsh after which the Marsh Lions were named.

The Marsh is the heart of the Marsh Pride’s dry season territory, while to the east the intermittent watercourse known as Bila Shaka was the traditional breeding site and resting place for the pride. Bila Shaka means ‘without fail’ in Swahili, testimony that the guides could always find lions here. Not now.

Each year Governor’s Camp outfitted a special tented camp for us along the Mara River just upstream from Main Camp. The foundation of the series was that we always knew that we could find lions, leopards and cheetahs in the area on a daily basis. The Marsh Pride were at the heart of the series, and virtually never let us down.

The Marsh Pride at home in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

The Marsh Pride at home in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

But that all changed when the authorities decided to turn a blind eye to the incursion of cattle into the reserve, forcing the lions to move out or risk death. The Marsh Pride has always been vulnerable since its territory spreads beyond the reserve boundary. This is particularly apparent in the wet season when Musiara Marsh (and Bila Shaka at times) becomes waterlogged and the lions move to higher ground to north and east.

Each year we lose lions to poisoning or spearing by pastoralists. That was always part of life for the lions. But in the last few years the situation has escalated beyond all reason, with the Marsh Pride becoming increasingly fragmented by the influx of cattle and herdsmen. Today it would be impossible to film Big Cat Diary in the same location. What a damning fact that is.

This year the impact of livestock has been all too apparent. Huge herds of cattle would camp during the daytime along the boundary of the reserve waiting for the tourists to head in to camp. Soon the Musiara area looked like a desert and each night you could see dozens of flickering torches as the cattle were driven in to the reserve after dark.

The deep tracks leading into the reserve are testament to this, along with piles of cattle dung scattered deep inside it. And the Musiara area is not alone. Guides from other parts of the Mara have been complaining about this situation for years. But nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.

These incursions are threatening the social cohesion – and very existence – of the Marsh Pride. Earlier in the year a breakaway group of young Marsh Pride females with young cubs were forced to cross the Mara River and set up home in the Kichwa Tembo area. The older females – Bibi (17), Sienna (11) and Charm (11) – and their cubs increasingly avoided Bila Shaka and the Marsh, loitering at the fringes of their traditional territory, forced to encroach on neighbouring prides.

The pride males – Scarface and his three companions – no longer visit the Musiara area, ever since Scarface was shot in 2013. He was treated and recovered but knew better than to stay.

In the past pride males often only managed a tenure of 2 years – sometimes less – before being forced out of their pride by younger or more powerful rivals. It was not uncommon to see groups of five or six young nomadic males roaming the Musiara or Paradise area together. I have counted as many as nine travelling as a group. That was a sign of a healthy lion population with lots of dispersing sub-adults.

Now Marsh Pride males are able to remain as pride males for many more years, due to a decline in the number of young nomadic male lions vying to replace them. The scarcity of these nomadic males suggests that they are not surviving as well as in the past, due to the disturbance that lions are facing on a nightly basis in parts of the Mara from livestock and herdsmen, or from trying to survive in less optimal areas beyond the reserve boundary.

Lions are always going to kill livestock if it comes within range – and of course they will sometimes kill livestock outside the reserve and must bear the consequences when they do. The only way to prevent this happening is if there are sufficient incentives to persuade the herdsmen that lions equate to tourists – and that means a financial return.

And that is the key point. Many Masai do not think of the Masai Mara Reserve as a source of income. They often feel that it is unfair that wildlife is allowed to share their pastures, and sometimes kill their livestock, while they are not allowed to reciprocate by bringing livestock in to the Reserve during dry times.

The Masai have roamed these areas for hundreds of years, long before it was given official protection. Understandably the Masai claim the Mara as their own. The authorities urgently need to address this issue by ensuring that everyone benefits from tourism to the Mara in a truly tangible way.

There will be no safe place for the Marsh Lions until the reserve authorities decide to address all of the issues that have been debated ever since I first came to live in the Mara in 1977. Measures must be taken now to ensure an equitable distribution of revenue from the reserve to the local community, and to increase support for the wildlife conservancies created on private lands around the reserve, where cattle grazing is permitted on a rotational basis.

Within the reserve, there should be a moratorium on any further tourism development, and an embargo on grazing of livestock.

What a miracle it would be if the demise of the Marsh Pride became the catalyst for serious dialogue and change as to how the Masai Mara is managed. The Governor of Narok County, the Honorable Samuel Ole Tunai, pledged to do just that when he called a Masai Mara Stakeholders Meeting in Nairobi in September 2015.

I attended that meeting and was impressed by the number of people who made the effort to come along and by the Governor’s openness to dialogue. Since then a small group of concerned individuals drawn from all walks of life have worked to support the Governor’s initiative.

We can only hope that we are about to witness tangible steps towards securing the future of this iconic landscape and its magnificent wildlife.


Paula Kahumbu writes: This is an edited version of an article written by Jonathan and Angela Scott and published on their blog on 7 December 2015. Jonathan and his wife Angie are award winning authors and internationally renowned wildlife photographers. My sincere thanks to Jonathan and Angela for permission to publish the article here.

Responding to a tip-off from visitors, the Kenya Wildlife Service and local authorities acted swiftly to bring the culprits to court, while the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and other local conservation organisations were prompt to treat the affected lions. But despite this veterinary support three lions have already died. At the time of writing, another four are still sick. The condition of others is not known.

Kenya has never before charged a person with poisoning wildlife, even though it is a frequent crime that has devastating effects on populations of lions, vultures and other predators.

However in this case the new Wildlife Crime Prosecution Unit has moved quickly to charge the suspects of this crime with offences against endangered wildlife species under Section 92 of the 2013 Wildlife Act, which could result in a fine of Ksh 20 million (USD 200,000) and/or life imprisonment.

This is another welcome sign that Kenyan courts are now taking wildlife crimes seriously. As Jonathan eloquently argues, this needs to be backed up by action to address the root causes of wildlife crime, inspired by the vision of a common future for people and wildlife


Wildlife Warriors OST Report

The Wildlife Warriors event at Brookhouse School attracted nearly twice as many people as we expected. Though we
targeted young people from Nairobi, grandparents, teachers, and many grown ups from all corners of the country
including expatriates came. This revealed a surprising level of interest in citizen participation. It also confirmed that young people feel that their
views about wildlife conservation are as important as those of adults. Hundreds of recommendations about creating a
generation of Wildlife Warriors were generated which revealed some general findings.

We are pleased to finally release the report of the first ever Open Space Technology event to be held in Nairobi. We apologize for the delay in getting this report out to the public and welcome comments on it. Please find the soft copy version of the report here

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Wildlife Conservation Through Sports at the Maasai Olympics

By Njambi Maingi, Outreach Coordinator, WildlifeDirect

An athlete crosses the finish line at the Maasai Olympics. The Maasai Olympics were held the Sidai Oleng Sanctuary, at the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. By Paula Kahumbu

An athlete crosses the finish line at the Maasai Olympics. The Maasai Olympics were held the Sidai Oleng Sanctuary, at the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. By Paula Kahumbu

Saturday 13 December was the second edition of the Maasai Olympics. Organised by the Big Life Foundation, the Olympics were founded as an event to replace the hunting of lions as a cultural rite of passage, and encouraging Maasai morans (warriors) to use their strength to fight for trophies and prizes and not to kill wildlife.

In a riot of colours of deep reds, deep blues, glistening beads and a palpable energy all over the Kimana Sanctuary at the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem, the event was also a rallying call for wildlife conservation.

WildlifeDirect was happy to be present at the Olympics and to support conservation efforts of Big Life Foundation. Through the CEO Dr Paula Kahumbu, WLD presented donated shoes for girls who participated in the 100m and the 1,500m races.


Girls pick their shoes before taking part in the 800m race. The shoes were donated to the girls through WildlifeDirect, and delivered by the CEO, Dr Paula Kahumbu


The competing athletes represented four local group ranches, including Imbirikani, Kuku, Rombo and Olgulului. They participated in a series of games that mimic traditional skills as an expression of the community’s willingness to save lion populations and raise awareness about wildlife conservation. The games included the Maasai High jump, The Rungu throw (Rungu-a traditional wooden club, and the Javelin throw. There was also the 100m, 200m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m run in which the women also participated.

“Charity begins at home, and having the Maasai take the lead in the protection of wildlife is a good way to take on the challenge of wildlife preservation.” said David Rudisha, one of Kenya’s top athlete, the Olympic record holder and gold medalist of the 800-m race,  and patron of the Maasai Olympics.

Representatives of Big Life stressed the importance of involving community’s leadership in organising the Olympics and sensitising them about conservation efforts.

“Due to programs such as these, there is an increasing positive perception towards wildlife and conservation,” said Tom Hill, of the Big Life Foundation. “The community is now more willing to endorse the elephant anti-poaching activities by the community scouts. Through our information network, a well known elephant poacher, Kerumpoti Leyian, who had been on the run, was recently arrested and sentenced to prison for seven years”.

In addition to earning pride and highly coveted awards such as the trophies and medals, winners also received cash prizes, education scholarships and a prize bull was also up for grabs.


A moran takes part in the Maasai High jump competition at the Maasai Olympics. By Paula Kahumbu

A moran takes part in the Maasai High jump competition at the Maasai Olympics. By Paula Kahumbu

Many community member present at the games cited the economic importance of lions and elephants to tourism within the group ranches and emphasized on the need to protect wildlife for community development; a win for both wildlife and the community.

This colourful event was sponsored by the National Geographic Society, African Wildlife Foundation,  the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Chester Zoo, the Olive Branch among others. It was attended by hundreds of community members, tourists, conservation organizations, the media. Cynthia Moss, Katito Saiyalel and Norah Njiraini of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants were also present as well as the leadership and administration of the local county government.

Note: The Kenyan lion population has decreased by 85% in the last 15 years and stands today at a mere 2000, with losses of up to 100 lions a year. This is mainly as a result of human-wildlife conflict brought about by the depredation of livestock owned by the Maasai. The Maasai have used their traditional knowledge of hunting to seek retaliation through spearing and the use of poisons. Experts claim that if prudent action is not taken, lions face extinction in the wild within the next 10 years.




Lions have declined by 65% in 50 years – new study

Africa’s lions are in trouble! That’s the conclusion of a comprehensive study that has just been released confirming lion numbers have dropped to 32,000, from nearly 100,000 just 50 years ago. The study by Dr Stuart Pimm and associates at Duke University was published online in this week’s journal Biodiversity and Conservation here. This is the most comprehensive assessment of lion numbers to date.

WildlifeDirect has been raising concern that lions in Africa are threatened due to loss of habitat and killings as a result of human wildlife  conflict on our blogs here on Baraza as well as on Stop Wildlife Poisoning  and lion guardians. In Kenya pesticides are used to poison at least half of those lions killed.  Less than 25% of lion habitat, savanna’s, remain in Africa. Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a study to determine whether to list African lions under the Endangered Species Act which would ban hunters from bringing lion trophies back into the United States even if hunts are legal. We are committed to raising global awareness about the problem and promoting workable solutions like the lion proof fences and the invention of a 13 year old Maasai boy Richard Turere  – lion lights.


Support Richard Turere and his lion lights to enable him to make it to TED

When we first met Richard Turere in FEbruary this year we had no idea that this young genius would get a scholarship to one of Kenya’s top schools, or that he would have a stab at the world stage through TED.

Watch his audition at the TED Talent search here. To support Richard make a donation here and vote for him on the TED website here



Thank you


Lion killed and warriors critically injured in lion hunt on Kuku Ranch

On 28th of June in the afternoon a group of newly initiated Masai moran, or warriors, went on a hunt to kill a lion that had apparently killed a sheep on a ranch. In the attack three warriors were critically injured and the lion killed. This incident comes hot on the heels of the killing of 6 lions in Kitengela next to Nairobi National Park on June 20th. This incident is tragic on several fronts. First, it happened on the privately run community ranch called Kuku, where researchers and conservationists have been working hard to protect lions for many years. The lion, was wearing a radio collar as he was the subject of research. This male was the head of a pride of 12 others. His loss is a devastating blow to the country’s dwindling lion population because when pride males are killed, other males will take over, killing all the cubs and chasing off or killing other all the other males in the process.

I was at the neighbouring ranch, Mbirikani for a traditional Masai wedding last weekend. Anthony Kasanga, a former lion guardian was tying the knot. Young warriors attended his ceremony and danced for 3 days in a row. The new initiates, aged between 14 – 20 were dressed in traditional red robes, had beautifully braided hair, and had adorned themselves in beaded jewelry. Their faces were painted with red ochre to make them appear fierce. This was no ordinary disco. The dancing of moran, or warriors involves putting the initiates into a trance, they chanting and leaping high into the air in a competition for glory. Girls surround the warriors to assess their prowess. It’s no secret that the highest jumper is considered the most attractive. But nothing is more appealing to the girls than a demonstration of courage – and killing a lion is the ultimate proof.

Lions are the number 1 attraction of visitors to Kenya


We interviewed 5 elders in the community to learn about how things were in the past and to explore what has changed as part of a folklife project called Africa’s Wildest Stories (which you can listen to here). Every single man spoke of his hunting accomplishments. One bragged that he had killed 50 black rhino in his youth. Another described how the warriors used to return from lion hunts with the skins and heads which would be raised in the village on poles like flags. This was a message to all visitors about the courage of that group of warriors. The sight was not just a boast but a challenge to any other warriors to try and do better.

Though much has changed since those days, the courage of the Maasai is still legendary. To attain the courage needed to take on killing a lion with only a spear is no small feat. The warriors chant and dance, and invoke the spirits to protect them. This puts them in a dream like trance in which they become fearless.  For new initiates like those inovlved in the hunt two days ago, it does not always work, and now three teenagers lie in critical condition in a hospital.

I live in the city of Nairobi and on the edge of Nairobi National Park whose greatest attraction is the 40 plus lions. Nowhere else in the world does a capital city have a park with wild lions on within the city boundary. This is what makes Nairobi Park special. But the tiny 117 square kilometer park depends on a large ecosystem through which wildlife disperses each rainy season. On December 28th last year 3 of the park lions left the park following the zebra and wildebeest. They killed livestock and were themselves killed in retaliation. After a series of meetings with the authorities, the community agreed not to kill any more if compensation was paid for the dead livestock. Then barely 6 months later 6 more lions were killed in a savage attack. They were trapped in a stockade and the community killed two adult females and surprisingly 4 cubs. If they hadn’t escaped, two males would have been killed too. There is no honor in killing a weakened  enemy and to many Maasai , the killing of the cubs was cowardly and unnecessary.  But then this was no ordinary hunt, a tipping point had been reached. The Maasai community say that they are fed up with being expected to incur the costs of the losses of livestock to lions. To these urban Maasai, lions are simply vermin.

WildlifeDirect working with the Friends of Nairobi Park and the local community have been monitoring and mapping all of the  lion predation incidents around Nairobi since October 2011 under a grant from the National  Geographics Big Cats Initiative. The killings of the 6 lions was no surprise to us. In fact in our observation the community had shown enormous restraint considering that over 140 head of livestock worth thousands of dollars had been killed in the previous 9 months. But most Kenyans are outraged because Kenya’s remaining population of only 1,970 lions is sliding quickly towards oblivion. The implications for the tourism based economy are enormous, lions are the number 1 attraction for tourists to the country. Expanding the tourism industry under Kenya’s ambitious Vision 2030 requires  them.

Why is it so hard to manage only 1,970 lions? Most of Kenya’s wildlife occurs outside of the protected areas in landscapes increasingly dominated by people. The situation is extreme around Nairobi Park where lion predation incidents have been rising rapidly.  Lions are constrained in a tiny park area because of an increasing human populations in the dispersal area south of the park. The lions have been getting away with killing livestock which is easier and safer than chasing down a zebra or buffalo. Of course this has emboldened them and increasingly they are attacking livestock in daylight and are even taking their cubs into homesteads.

Efforts to resolve the human-lion problem have  involved local NGO and KWS drive efforts to build lion proof stockades, compensation for livestock losses, financial rewards for protecting lions, sharing of revenues from tourism and education of warriors and the curious invention of lion lights by a 13 year old Maasai boy Richard Turere which we reported here. But there are two reasons why the killings of lions continue. First there is the culture of lion killing by the Maasai. Lion hunting is still appealing for warriors as those who kill lions will be championed as brave warriors.  It is completely against the law of course, but so far, no one has been arrested for any of these incidents. In fact the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife has publically exonerated the lion killers and a local member of parliament has urged the Masai to kill all “stray” lions. Kenyans are demanding that the new wildlife legislation which has been languishing in draft form since 2008 be urgently passed. In it are provisions for carrots and sticks. The Wildlife Bill will guarantee compensation against loss or damage of property at cost. It also includes severe penalties for poaching, and dealing in wildlife.  But any law is only as good as how it is implemented. So long as the Kenyan leadership continues to lack political will – lion killers will continue to escape and more lions will die. The government authority responsible for wildlife conservation, the Kenya Wildlife Service, is increasingly finding its self between a rock and a hard place as the situation continues to worsen.  Not only are the current laws out dated, but the central government has not invested adequately in conservation outside of the protected areas where 75 percent of Kenya’s wildlife resides.  Given the importance of lions to the economy, what Kenya must do is develop a national plan for managing lions in the wild at an ecosystem level. Thankfully, being the hub of conservation and research in eastern Africa, there is no shortage of experts and interest in helping the government to solve these problems. If Kenya can’t get it right, then there is little hope for Africa’s threatened cats.   In any case, Kenya does not have a choice, lions are the national symbol of the country, and a Kenya without lions is unimaginable.

As I sit here typing I can hear two lions roaring. It’s a mating ritual. It is a wonderful  earthy sound that reminds me of how lucky we are in the city of Nairobi. But I can’t help feeling that unless we solve the lion conflict situation, the lions of Nairobi will not survive for much longer.

To support our lion conservation work please make a donation today. Thank you

Outrage over lion killings in Nairobi

Lion killed in Kitengela


Yesterday mornings killing of  six lions just 15 kilometers south of the Nairobi Park has sparked outrage in the Kenyan news and the news has gone global sparking huge debate. These weren’t any old lions, they are all individually known lions The two females (AF3 and AF4) and their cubs, two juveniles and two young cubs.

6 Lions were killed in Kitengela including 2 cubs

The local communities argue that their losses of livestock are not taken seriously by the Government authorities. The Government has threatened to arrest those responsible for killing the lions which has only hardened the community stand. This morning a local elder told me angrily that he was ready to go to jail – for saving his community’s livelihood.

WildlifeDirect, working with the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative has been discussing the challenges with the local communities and seeking a lasting solution that will enable people to benefit from living lions to secure their future in this landscape. We are exploring how to secure adequate land for lions .