By Cyndee Miller
I think we’d all agree it’s not a best practice to simply drop two dozen big cats into someone’s backyard without warning. So when conservationists Ivan Carter and Mark Haldane teamed up on what would become the largest international lion relocation in history, they knew they’d need some serious stakeholder outreach.
The Twenty Four Lions team started by bringing in a local scientist to help educate villagers in the surrounding Zambezi Delta in Mozambique. The goal: teach them about the project and earn their support.
“He came back and said, ‘Do you know that they believe in spiritual lions? It’s their firm belief that all the strong leaders become lions,’” says Mr. Haldane, CEO, Zambeze Delta Safaris, Durban, South Africa.
That certainly went a long way in building buy-in, but the team knew it also had to deliver tangible value. Along with constructing a new clinic for the village, it launched projects that would provide villagers with alternate sources of income through beekeeping and sustainable fishing.
And project leaders were respectful of local customs, attending an elaborate ceremony in which the chief of a local tribe called upon his ancestors to give their blessing for the initiative.
“If you don’t have your community involved and benefiting from a project, it’s never going to last,” Mr. Haldane says in the February issue of PM Network®. “So I think we’re incredibly blessed to have them on our side and feeling that they have ownership of it as well.”
The project looks to be a roaring success. Since the relocation in June 2018, the lion population has already increased in excess of 30 cubs and could hit 500 in just 15 years.
In an era of massive species loss, the Twenty Four Lions project provides not just a vision, but a clear path to achieving that vision.
“Nobody has ever studied how the behavior and the habitat use by prey species changes once an apex predator is not only introduced but establishes a viable population of its own,” says Mr. Carter, CEO of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance.
“Hopefully, other teams wanting to reintroduce lions into a landscape can take this blueprint and not have to make any of the mistakes we’ve made,” he says.
What kinds of projects are you seeing that make the world a better place?