Photos: Maasai people attempt to share the savannah with lions

In most corners of the planet, humans and big predators don't easily co-exist. When forests and savannahs are converted to farms and cities, the land ceases to be suitable habitat for most large animals. In an attempt to facilitate the co-habitation of lions in a savannah in Tanzania, Saitoti Petro from the Maasai steppe walks daily patrol routes to help shepherds shield their cattle in pasture from the predators, with support and training from a small Tanzanian nonprofit. Within a study area monitored by the Tarangire Lion Project, the monthly count of lions hit a low of around 120 lions in fall 2011 — down from about 220 lions in 2004. But the population started to recover in 2012, reaching more than 160 lions by 2015.

Updated On Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST
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A young lion climbs down a tree. Within the boundaries of Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, lions sleep on open river banks and dangle from tree often ignoring the squadrons of open-top safari tour vehicles passing by. Saitoti Petro, one of the Masaai scans a dirt road in northern Tanzania for recent signs of the top predator on the African savannah. “If you see a lion,” he warns, “stop and look it straight in the eyes — you must never run.” (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

A young lion climbs down a tree. Within the boundaries of Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, lions sleep on open river banks and dangle from tree often ignoring the squadrons of open-top safari tour vehicles passing by. Saitoti Petro, one of the Masaai scans a dirt road in northern Tanzania for recent signs of the top predator on the African savannah. “If you see a lion,” he warns, “stop and look it straight in the eyes — you must never run.” (Jerome Delay / AP)

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Petro (C) points to a fresh track in the dirt, a paw print measuring nearly the length of a ballpoint pen. Petro is one of more than 50 lion monitors from communities on the Maasai steppe who walk daily patrol routes to help shepherds shield their cattle in pasture, with support and training from a small, Tanzanian nonprofit called African People & Wildlife. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

Petro (C) points to a fresh track in the dirt, a paw print measuring nearly the length of a ballpoint pen. Petro is one of more than 50 lion monitors from communities on the Maasai steppe who walk daily patrol routes to help shepherds shield their cattle in pasture, with support and training from a small, Tanzanian nonprofit called African People & Wildlife. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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The tall, slender 29-year-old is marching with four other young men who belong to a pastoralist people called the Maasai. Beneath the folds of his thick cloak, he carries a sharpened machete. Only a few years ago, men of Petro’s age would most likely have been stalking lions to hunt them often, to avenge cattle that the big cats had eaten. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

The tall, slender 29-year-old is marching with four other young men who belong to a pastoralist people called the Maasai. Beneath the folds of his thick cloak, he carries a sharpened machete. Only a few years ago, men of Petro’s age would most likely have been stalking lions to hunt them often, to avenge cattle that the big cats had eaten. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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A young male lion yawns as he wakes up. Petro explains, the problem now is that there are too few lions, not too many. “It will be shameful if we kill them all,” he says. “It will be a big loss if our future children never see lions.” And so he’s joined an effort to protect lions, by safeguarding domestic animals on which they might prey. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

A young male lion yawns as he wakes up. Petro explains, the problem now is that there are too few lions, not too many. “It will be shameful if we kill them all,” he says. “It will be a big loss if our future children never see lions.” And so he’s joined an effort to protect lions, by safeguarding domestic animals on which they might prey. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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Lions are respected as worthy adversaries in Maasai culture. Anyone who harms more than nine is said to be cursed. But avenging the death of a prize cow wins respect, like dueling to avenge a lost family member. These retaliatory killings have become more deadly in recent years, as many herdsmen have switched from spearing individual lions to leaving out poisoned carcasses, which can decimate a pride of lions, along with other animals that might feed on tainted meat. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

Lions are respected as worthy adversaries in Maasai culture. Anyone who harms more than nine is said to be cursed. But avenging the death of a prize cow wins respect, like dueling to avenge a lost family member. These retaliatory killings have become more deadly in recent years, as many herdsmen have switched from spearing individual lions to leaving out poisoned carcasses, which can decimate a pride of lions, along with other animals that might feed on tainted meat. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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Over the past decade, more than a thousand households have built secure modern corrals made of living acacia trees and chain-link fence to protect their animals at night. Here, they are mostly safe. But the protected area of the park is only a portion of the land that these lions and their prey depend upon. Large migratory animals range widely, and on the parched savannahs of eastern Africa, they mostly follow the rains. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

Over the past decade, more than a thousand households have built secure modern corrals made of living acacia trees and chain-link fence to protect their animals at night. Here, they are mostly safe. But the protected area of the park is only a portion of the land that these lions and their prey depend upon. Large migratory animals range widely, and on the parched savannahs of eastern Africa, they mostly follow the rains. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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On a July morning, he stops suddenly and points toward a tree-lined ravine. The tracks he’s been following have veered off the road, so he thinks the lion moved toward a stream in the gorge. The footprints must be recent because there are not yet bits of grass strewn on top. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

On a July morning, he stops suddenly and points toward a tree-lined ravine. The tracks he’s been following have veered off the road, so he thinks the lion moved toward a stream in the gorge. The footprints must be recent because there are not yet bits of grass strewn on top. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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As his team walks toward the gulley, they hear cow bells jingling. “We should go and check if anyone is coming this way,” says Petro. “We need to warn them.” They soon find two young shepherds, pre-teen boys sitting under an acacia tree, playing with small yellow fruit like balls in the dirt. Their two dozen cattle are meandering toward the ravine. Petro kneels to greet the boys, then advises them about the lion. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

As his team walks toward the gulley, they hear cow bells jingling. “We should go and check if anyone is coming this way,” says Petro. “We need to warn them.” They soon find two young shepherds, pre-teen boys sitting under an acacia tree, playing with small yellow fruit like balls in the dirt. Their two dozen cattle are meandering toward the ravine. Petro kneels to greet the boys, then advises them about the lion. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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Within a study area monitored by the nonprofit Tarangire Lion Project, the monthly count of lions hit a low of around 120 lions in fall 2011 — down from about 220 lions in 2004. But the population started to recover in 2012, reaching more than 160 lions by 2015.”Once you make lions safe, their numbers can recover quickly,” because lions reproduce rapidly, says Laly Lichtenfeld, an ecologist and co-founder of African People and Wildlife. (Jerome Delay / AP)
Updated on Oct 11, 2019 05:28 PM IST

Within a study area monitored by the nonprofit Tarangire Lion Project, the monthly count of lions hit a low of around 120 lions in fall 2011 — down from about 220 lions in 2004. But the population started to recover in 2012, reaching more than 160 lions by 2015.”Once you make lions safe, their numbers can recover quickly,” because lions reproduce rapidly, says Laly Lichtenfeld, an ecologist and co-founder of African People and Wildlife. (Jerome Delay / AP)

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