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KOPE Lion Foundation, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

EVOLVING TRAVEL 

At The Evolved Traveler, we create journeys to promote actionable, sustainable tourism and responsible travel opportunities that initiate an uplifting “benefit to all” approach. Journeys that positively impact the traveler, the communities they visit, and our environment.

In our last issue, we introduced Evolved Experiences. We explained how they are woven into each of our journeys to satisfy one of our core components, building a stronger sense of global community. Today, we’re grateful that many worldwide destinations present various opportunities to help us achieve this goal. For instance, the Lifestart Foundation in Hoi An, Vietnam—featured in our fall 2020 evoke as part of our “Quintessential Vietnam” programprovides useful skills to at-risk and unserved community members to help them earn a sustainable living. People, helping people. 

 This fall, it is in this curious-, caring-, and concerned-spirit that we visit The KopeLion Foundation in Northern Tanzania. 

The Foundation’s mission statement reads, “KopeLion strives for sustainable human-lion coexistence in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a multi-use landscape.” and they use a three-prong approach to accomplish this: education and communication, research, and community engagement. Each effort is essential to a successful mission. People, helping people, helping lions.

Education and communication begin at the grassroots level, raising awareness within the Hadzabe, Datoga, and Maasai, who call the Conservation Area home. Inherently, theirs is not an easy life, and losing precious livestock to lions makes it that much more challenging. Regular visits and personal connections with the tribes allow the Foundation’s staff to hear, and foremost, to listen to present-day issues and to productively discuss viable solutions other than killing the lions. 

The KopeLion Foundation is sensitive to the tribes’ cultural traditions and practices. It exercises extreme diplomacy when communicating with the tribes, particularly the Maasai, as lion killing has always been a rite of passage for young warriors. Therefore, the Foundation positions the primary focus of their work as being “to restore the connectivity for lions between Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater; and ensure that Ngorongoro Conservation Area continues to be an important component of the Greater Serengeti that hosts an intact ecosystem including its top predators.” In other words, the Foundation understands that involving the tribes in the process is vital, as local problems often require local solutions.

For example, the Foundation works with the villagers through community meetings and by directly (and cleverly) employing some of the tribes’ men as Ilchokuti, or Lion Guardians, which have now become well-respected positions within the communities. A Guardian’s role is as multi-faceted as esteemed; they assist the Foundation with tracking and monitoring lions, periodically warn villagers of lions in their area, help find and recover any lost livestock, and also help repair fencing to keep herds safe at night.

This conservation technique, as well as lion monitoring, GPS tracking, livestock-lion interaction, and genetics, are just part of the Foundation’s livestock-lion-people triangulation research, fundamental to the continuing success of ongoing efforts. 

With a baseline goal of achieving coexistence between men and lions by actively engaging the local communities while still respecting their traditional ways of life, we think the KopeLion Foundation is the epitome of sustainability and are proud to include them in our collection of Evolved Experiences.

This Evolved Experience is part of a 10-night “Gorilla Tracking with Uganda’s Gorilla Doctors and Tanzania Luxury Safari” from Sep 9-19, 2021. For more information, read our Fab Four article on page XX or visit https://wetu.com/Itinerary/Landing/1F18DD72-526E-4795-9FC8-2480E96282B4 

For more information on The KopeLion Foundation, visit kopelion.org

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