This is Stephanie (or Naasha as I am called in Maasai meaning ‘rain’). I am a project biologist for Living with Lions, currently working and living in Eselenkei Group Ranch, covering this area as well as Olgulului Group Ranch. Previously I was living and working in Mbirikani Group Ranch but since early 2009 when we expanded the Lion Guardians project to Eselenkei we built a new camp and I moved over here permanently.
Before working in Mbirikani, I worked up north at our Laikipia project site so I’ve covered a lot of ground in the areas where Living with Lions operates. People who visit us frequently ask “how did you get this job?” Well, it is a long story but in brief I have a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation Biology and I’ve worked in many places focusing on human impact on wildlife populations namely birds & carnivores (yes, I am a birder)!
I’ve worked primarily in N. America such as in Missouri, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and California national parks and protected areas, as well as Hawaii (Big Island) and the Bahamas (Eleuthera Is.). This photo is of myself in Laikipia with Steven Ekwanga, Lion Guardian Olubi, and a lioness that was having her collar changed.
In 2005 I met the director of Living with Lions Dr. Laurence Frank, and he invited me out to volunteer for the project. I fell in love with spotted hyenas and now, almost 5 years later, I am still with the Living with Lions project, now as a project biologist and I am working on my PhD studying lion and hyena behaviors and movements around Maasai homesteads and communities. Here I am with my assistant Lenkai, collecting some goats that we found lost in the bush, and taking them back to their owner so that they would not get attacked by carnivores during the night.
I love my job as it is quite diverse and exciting. I spend most of my days out with the Lion Guardians following up on fresh lion tracks or responding to livestock owners’ reports of lions or hyenas killing their livestock. My favorite times are the long hours spent in the field (or bush as we call it here) with the Guardians and my assistant Lenkai. Most of these guys have never been to school a day in their lives. We are teaching them to read and write while they are teaching us all about the lions and hyenas they share their land and livestock with. I have learned so much about the wildlife from these murrans (Maasai word for warrior) and we have shared many a laugh together. This photo is of myself and Lion Guardian Kamunu. We are using his GPS to mark a zebra killed by lions that he found nearby.
I try to use technology (such as cameras, video recordings, sound recordings, etc.) to ‘capture’ the lions we see and bring the visual and audio ‘captures’ back to the Guardians and the people who live around us. We are always stopping and chatting with many of our Maasai neighbors, getting news from them as well as sharing the news of the lions with them (who has cubs, who’s mating, which areas the lions are in now, & what they’ve been eating recently).
For my job and research I am out with the Guardians using radio telemetry to track collared lions as well as collecting lion scat (poop) and hairs for DNA analysis, and getting photographs of the individual lions we are able to find for the photo database we are compiling. In this photo I am collecting lion hair for DNA analysis.
On this blog I, along with my colleague Kylie from Mbirikani Group Ranch, will share our adventures of following the lions of the Amboseli ecosystem, together with the Lion Guardians. We hope you’ll stay tuned!