Last month, the RC team traveled to the conservancies bordering the Maasai Mara of Kenya and the Mara itself.
There the team met with Vulture Liaison Officers, who play an important role as first responders to apex predator kills.
Lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas are four top predators that prey on the herds of Masai shepherds. In retaliation for losing their livestock, it is common for a Masai pastoralist to locate and poison dead carcasses to kill the predators that take away their livelihood.
Not only do the predators die when pesticides (or other poisons) are used, but a single carcass can take down a range of animals with particularly damaging effects on critically endangered vultures.
Vultures play a crucial role in the ecosystem and are becoming a disappearing buffer that protects many lifeforms (especially humans) from increasing pathogens and diseases. Of the 8 species of vultures in Africa, 6 live in the Maasai Mara.
The small group of Vulture Liaison Officers that the team met and accompanied to kill sites assessed whether poison had been used. In cases where it had, they tried to recover both the predators and vultures. Lions were occasionally placed on IV drips and vultures were forced to regurgitate before transportation to recovery facilities. The team’s primary goal was to educate the pastoralists and their families on programs that restore lost animals if poison is not used. The latter parts of the project included building more secure bomas (corrals) and installing Lion Lights and other fortifications to better protect remaining livestock.
The team’s collaboration in the field with the first responders forged meaningful friendships and provided them with insight into both sides of the conflict between humans and predators. Their intent is to spread awareness and help provide resources for ongoing involvement and future visits. The imagery of the Maasai Mara and culture of the Masai will be an important inspiration for Robert's designs in seasons ahead. The RC team looks forward to sharing the efforts of the courageous Vulture Liaison Officers on our site and future social media posts.