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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Exploring Lions and their Prey in Kenya

Can inventive livestock management bring balance between lions, other predators, and prey back to the Kenyan savanna?


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Unlike many conservation efforts, this project is seeking a solution that embraces, rather than excludes, livestock production.

Herbivores like cattle, zebras, and species with more fragile populations help maintain a mix of trees and grasses on the savanna.

Large herbivores maintain savanna ecosystems by allowing both trees and grasses to thrive. Previous observations suggest that zebras have a fondness for areas where cattle have grazed. But can cattle actually attract zebras? The data you collect on herbivore abundance can help answer this question.

Researchers also already know that zebras are the most common lion meal. So the next question is: do lions and other predators that eat zebras hunt where these striped ungulates are most abundant, or where prey of all kinds is easiest to catch? If it’s the former, as these researchers suspect, lions should follow the zebras to those greener cattle pastures.

lions resting during the day in ol pejeta

Lions at rest in Ol Pejeta

If the first two hypotheses turn out to be true—that zebras will follow cows and predators will follow zebras—one big question still remains. Will moving cattle strategically to attract zebras actually help the rarer herbivores survive? This could be possible: the declining species tend to congregate in smaller, more sedentary herds than zebras, which makes them easier to catch than zebras if they’re in all in the same area.

You can provide the observational power to discover how this experiment will actually unfold. Help be part of a strategy that could strengthen predators, prey, and the people of Kenya who depend on tourism and livestock.

About the research area

Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, Africa

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

This is a summary:

The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Jacob
Goheen
Professor, University of Wyoming

ABOUT Jacob Goheen

Dr. Jacob Goheen, an animal ecologist working with Earthwatch in Kenya, is passionate about blending theory and practice.

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Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food

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