Lions and Their Prey in Kenya's Maasai Mara
Earthwatch requires all participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Join researchers in the Massai Mara to help discover how they can restore the dynamic balance between predators and prey through creative livestock management.
The iconic savannas of the Maasai Mara are reliant on a variety of wild undulates, like elephants, giraffes, zebras, and antelope, to keep it healthy and stable. Many local people also rely on this biodiversity to attract tourism and generate revenue. However, conservancy managers and landowners are struggling to maintain healthy populations of both these iconic herbivores and large predators. Since high populations of lions are linked to declines in rare large herbivores, including many iconic antelope species that tourists in Kenya want to see, landowners who depend on tourism are considering lethal methods to manage predators, further jeopardizing these big cats.
But what if both predators and their fragile prey could thrive? Lions most commonly eat zebras, which have a healthy and robust population in the area. And zebras seem to prefer areas where cattle have grazed. By carefully managing the relationships between these species, researchers think it’s possible to influence where the lions seek their meals.
Contribute to this innovative look at how new cattle ranching methods could transform African landscapes. You’ll check camera trap images for leopards, lions, wild dogs, spotted hyenas, and other predators. And you’ll survey zebras and other herbivores like hartebeest, topi, and eland to learn how their populations shift with cattle ranching. Take this rare opportunity to witness how interconnected all species really are.
A Typical Itinerary
- DAY 1 Fly to Maasai Mara, introduction to research
- DAY 2 Tour research site; training on distance sampling, camera traps, and lion pride work
- DAYS 3–13 Observe herbivores, track predators, review camera-traps
- DAY 7 Departure
HOW WILL YOU HELP
Observe herbivores and track predators
While in the conservancy, you will record the location and abundance of zebra and other herbivores using distance sampling methodology, noting the presence or absence of calves and other young animals—data that will be later compared to sightings and observed behaviors of lions and other large carnivores to see which prey species the cats are following.
Camera-trap hyenas and leopards
You'll help check camera traps around the conservancy and sort through the images taken to identify individual animals by their unique patterns of stripes or spots.
Monitor predators, livestock and people
Record all sightings of predators, livestock, vehicles, and people, using the smartphone application CyberTracker. Data collected will be used to assess population demographics, distribution, and trends of these respective variables.
Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.
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