Passion Points: Giving Back
Seeing lions in the bush is such an expected part of many safaris that most Westerners don’t realize just how perilously close the King of the Jungle is to extinction. “People think there isn’t a problem,” says New York philanthropist and lion expert Tom Hill. “But the reality is that lions are being systematically driven to extinction by the Maasai.” The lion population, he explains, has declined by an estimated 90 percent in the past two decades, with fewer than 21,000 lions remaining in all of Africa. And, he adds, “The remaining prides have become completely isolated in game parks, where they can’t migrate freely.”
Hill and Richard Bonham, the great African guide and owner of Ol Donyu Wuas lodge, are fighting to reverse that trend in Kenya’s 3,700-square-mile Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem with an innovative program: the privately-funded Predator Compensation Fund, which they founded in 2003. The partners, who have houses near each other in the Chyulu Hills on land they lease from the Maasai, recognize the economic underpinnings of the current situation. As the Maasai have become more Westernized and less nomadic, they’ve become intolerant to livestock loss, poisoning entire prides to protect their cows and sheep. And there are cultural forces at work as well. “There is nothing more central to the culture of the Maasai than a young man killing a lion with a spear,” says Hill.
Hill and Bonham worked with wildlife conservationists and Maasai leaders to create a series of financial incentives to stop lion slaughter. The Predator Compensation Fund, which depends on self-regulation by the Maasai, pays livestock owners full market value for lost cows, goats, sheep or donkeys. (Owners must prove the animal in question was killed by a lion, leopard, cheetah or elephant, and they are docked for poor animal husbandry, lack of fencing or unprotected livestock.) In addition, says Hill, “we’re trying to stabilize the lions’ migration path by protecting the land between game parks. To do that, we have 100 guys in uniform, carrying guns, trained to provide a police function.”
Their work is an ongoing struggle, but the results so far have been encouraging. However, for the program to succeed, Hill says, they will need ongoing funding, continued local support and, most important, for the rest of the world to recognize the gravity of the situation. We can only hope this happens before it is too late. To learn more or contribute to the fund, contact Tom Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special benefit for Indagare members: Hill’s house, located on a 300,000-acre wilderness preserve, is available for rent; a portion of the fee goes to support lion conservation. To read more, click here.
Search By Keyword
Its own continent but most often reached from South America....
New on Indagare
Give the Gift of Indagare The perfect present for travelers: a membership to Indagare. Buy now
Indagare Insider Trips: Cuba, Myanmar and India: We’re planning trips throughout the year. Contact Indagare (212-988-2611) to be added to the wait list.
- Community: Share advice with fellow members asking about your favorite travel discoveries.
- Indagare Insiders: Three-day itineraries for families in London and art lovers in Vienna. Plus, fashion insider Chiara Ferragamo’s picks on what not to miss in Florence, Bonnie Gokson, owner of Hong Kong’s lofty Sevva on Hong Kong, Culinary Insider: Budapest.
- Rant & Rave: Indagare members can share their advice with the community by logging in first, then clicking here: Rants & Raves.
- Give the Gift: Indagare: Give the gift of travel intelligence with a membership to Indagare. For details or to order, call us at 212-988-2611 or click here: Gift Membership.
- Indagare Plus: Remember that hotels marked by an Indagare Plus symbol offer preferential rates and benefits to members.
- Indagare Share Feature: Share articles, postcards and reviews with family and friends on such networking sites as Twitter, Facebook and Delicious. Simply click on the three small dots that symbolize our connect icon, at the end of every article, and follow the link to the networking site of your preference.
- Sample Indagare: With free bi-weekly email blasts on new hot spots and insider tips when you sign up for our mailing list.
- Profile feature: Members share your profiles, comments, favorite articles and IQs. Just click on the Profile tab on the upper right of your screen and look for the Edit My Profile blue tab.
- Indagare means to discover, explore, seek, scout in Latin.