Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kenyan Kids on Safari is very proud of our association with Ewaso Lions, and especially the tremendous boost to kids self esteem in growing up with wildlife and broadening their personal horizons through this new program.

Expanding conservation programs for kids in 2016, Ewaso Lions in Samburu recently concluded the first ever Lion Kids Camp for livestock herding children. The previous five Lion Kids Camps were all with local primary school students. This Camp focused on a new demographic of young Kenyans who play an important role for wildlife: young livestock herders, or lchokutis in the local Samburu language. 28 Kenyan children came from villages across Westgate Conservancy for a week of conservation education, activities, and games.
For the Samburu people in northern Kenya, livestock represents wealth and status. Often, young children are charged with tending livestock while out grazing, so these young herders play a vital role in protecting their families’ livelihoods and maintaining cultural traditions. They spend a significant amount of time in wildlife areas, yet they have limited, if any, exposure to conservation education and training.
Because of their herding responsibilities, most have never even stepped foot in a classroom before!

The young herders went on their first-ever game drive where they were lucky enough to see three of Samburu’s famous lionesses hunting warthog. For 22 of the 28 herders this was the first time in their lives they had seen lions!
Despite living adjacent to world famous reserves and spending each day in the bush herding livestock, it is rare for young herders to see wildlife close up, especially carnivores. Instead, they might see the tracks of a hyena outside their home or the remains of a goat killed by a leopard. Perhaps even more exciting, the herders saw Naramat and her three cubs in Westgate’s own Conservation Area. At the end of the camp, it was great to hear them still reciting the names of their community lions!

The lchokutis really soaked in everything they learned: local conservation issues, ways to coexist with wildlife, and more. They were so honest about everything – admitting to having encroached into protected areas, killing Dikdiks in the past, and more. But after the Kids Camp, we could see a change. On the way home, a black-bellied bustard crossed the road in the distance and Fredi, one of the boys yelled out, “Don’t hit him!”

The camp concluded with a special closing ceremony in which the herders created and performed their first wildlife dramas. With the help of their team leaders, they also made some great wildlife costumes out of old food sacks, ash and scraps of material!

During the wind-up, after some impromptu Samburu dancing, the children returned to their villages singing songs about wild dogs and lions. Incredibly, the shy and nervous children who had arrived barely five days earlier had transformed into confident children eager to share their experiences with family and friends. They were even demanding to be dropped right outside each village so that everyone could hear them singing!

Thanks to the children for opening their minds and hearts to learn about conservation, Ewaso Lions are already excited by plans to host another Lion Kids Camp with herders very soon.