A Sanctuary for Lions?

When Big Life Foundation, supported by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, took over the management of Kimana Sanctuary at the start of 2018, it was not certain whether any predators were still using the area. There were stories of the past, rumours and hearsay but no concrete evidence of their presence. At last, in May 2018, the BLF rangers stationed in the Sanctuary reported lion track sightings and roars! With great excitement, the Lion Guardians team was called in, and although the individual wasn’t identified they were able to confirm tracks of at least one sub-adult male using the area regularly.

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With the aim being to find and identify the mystery lion, Lion Guardians set up communication networks with the sanctuary and appointed Guardian Olubi from the nearby zone to combine forces with the BLF Rangers on the ground – their aim was to track the lion but not to provoke it whilst on foot.

One day in late September, the team narrowed down precisely where the lion was hiding. Since it was a dense thicket, we had to retreat, now in a 4x4 vehicle, and wait for the lion to move out itself. We waited, and into the night we tested our luck searching around the area until eventually we caught a glimmer of pure gold. There it was…a young lion striding confidently alongside the flowing river. In our truck, a ring of ‘high-fives’ rang out and we all congratulated ourselves for finding the lion. Initially from afar, we didn’t know if it was a male or a female, but on closer inspection we realised that it was a young male with very little mane growth.

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He was relaxed, yet on the move, occasionally stopping to look at herds of zebra, wildebeest, and eland. Every animal in the sanctuary watched him meander along, as did we. The baboons, perched safely up high in the Yellow Fever trees could hardly contain themselves, bellowed out all sorts of salutations and provocations.

As we attained enough photos for identification purposes, we let him slip through our grasp and into the dark of the night.

With our endorphins buzzing having finally seen the lion, the Lion Guardians immediately set about the lion identification process. Would this be a new lion to the Amboseli ecosystem…maybe a disperser from Tsavo West N.P.? Or might he be a lion already known to them, seeking out his own niche in this protected patch.

BINGO – they got a perfect match: It’s ‘Osunash’.

It was always going to be exciting to know who the lion might be but it makes good sense for it to be Osunash. He was born and raised in Amboseli N.P., less than 25km away, and was observed earlier in the year by LG close to Amboseli starting his dispersal journey.

The important story here is that the corridor from Amboseli to Kimana that connects towards The Chyulu Hills and Tsavo regions is clearly functional for predators, and is allowing connectivity between these densely populated areas.  

We all wish Osunush well on his journey in search of his own patch of ground, and we certainly hope that he decides stay in Kimana Sanctuary!

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