The Lion Defenders

Updated: May 7

How do you live in harmony with a threatened animal when the animal is, well, threatening?


Close up of the face of a mature male lion

For the Barabaig people in central Tanzania, that's an ongoing question. Particularly as Tanzania is home to about 50 percent of the lion population in sub-Saharan Africa.


Despite being apex predators, lions are considered 'vulnerable,' with a total population of less than 40,000. However, they also pose a danger to people and livestock. As a result, killing lions can be a source of income and social status in the Barabaig community.


To counter the temptation to kill the 'kings of the jungle', the conservation organization Lion Landscapes has come up with an innovative solution. They have been working with the Barabaig tribe to form the 'Lion Defenders' - a group of young men who track lions to make sure herders and community members stay a safe distance, and the lions remain unharmed.


Stephano Asecheka, who is from the Barabaig tribe, acts as an intermediary between these young men and the community and says helping his people understand lions differently - as cohabitants and also as a tourist draw that can boost the local economy - helps form a sense of ownership and protectiveness.


Lion Landscapes also works in Kenya and Zambia.