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Pop!Tech ’09: Maasai and Lions, Working Together

The Maasai people of Kenya have an understandably antagonistic relationship with the country's lions. If you're a Maasai, your capital is all tied...


The Maasai people of Kenya have an understandably antagonistic relationship with the country's lions. If you're a Maasai, your capital is all tied up in cow assets. When a lion kills one of your cows, that's an immediate hit to your material wellbeing. To protect their interests, Maasai kill lions. It's a part of their culture. The problem is that Kenya's lion population is now headed towards extinction. The country is down to an estimated 2,000 lions and is losing about 100 each year.A few brave young Maasai, calling themselves the "lion guardians" are starting to protect these lions instead. They're tracking lions and radio-tagging them so herders can avoid them and, while they're out in the bush, they help round up stray cows as well. Not only is it nice to protect lions for their own sake (they're incredible creatures), but it's also economically important for Kenya. If the country loses lions, its valuable tourist industry suffers.Paula Kahumbu, who just spoke at Pop!Tech, has set up a blogging platform so these young "lion guardians" can broadcast their efforts to the rest of the world and raise funds. Not only is the lion guardians' blog super compelling (tracking lions is turns out to be pretty exciting work), but it also lets them raise interest and-critically-funds.It's wins all around. The Maasai learn more about the lions so they can better protect their herds, the lions survive, and it's all in Kenya's long-term economic interests.
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