Shivani Bhalla is the founder and executive director of Ewasso Lions, an NGO, that focuses on research and conservation while using education to promote the coexistence between local people and local wildlife in the hopes of ensuring a future for lions in northern Kenya.
EFN: You are currently pursuing a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Oxford in England. What is the basic question you are trying to answer for your doctoral work?
SB: I am looking at the factors affecting the population dynamics of lions inside protected areas compared to lions in community areas. Basically, I’m looking at how variations in prey and changes in human dynamics affect this fringe lion population.
EFN: What are the most exciting results so far?
SB: The most exciting results are the differences I have found between lions that live outside protected areas versus those that live inside protected areas. Lions living outside protected areas, in community areas, are solitary, less social, and generally don’t announce their presence. They hide during the day and come out only at night. Their cubs learn how to hunt and survive in the wild earlier than cubs in safer areas. In comparison, lions in the protected reserves are social and generally stay together in loose units. In Samburu National Reserve they are also active during the day.
Another exciting result is seeing how the local communities that we work with are now reacting to lions living near their villages. They are surprisingly tolerant, interested, and enthusiastic about wildlife! It is because of their tolerance and interest that our lions in the community area have successfully raised cubs to more than a year old.
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