12 Feb

Lion Conservationist Shivani Bhalla Awarded 2013 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation


Panthera is excited to announce that lion conservationist and PhD candidate, Shivani Bhalla, has been awarded the 2013 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation.

A fourth-generation Kenyan, Bhalla has carried out lion conservation initiatives in the Samburu-Isiolo ecosystem in northern Kenya since 2002. Beginning with research conducted for her Master’s thesis at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University, Bhalla produced the first accurate estimate of the lion population in Samburu, and demonstrated that lions move frequently between the region’s National Reserves and adjacent areas of human settlement - a recipe for increased human-lion contact and conflict.

Recognizing the significant need for mitigation of human-lion conflict plaguing the region, Bhalla founded Ewaso Lions in 2007 – a community-based lion conservation and research organization that now includes a team of 26 local Samburu employees. Today, Ewaso Lions monitors all lion prides in the region (including the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves, along with adjacent community lands) and works with stakeholders to implement innovative conservation initiatives that reduce human-lion conflict and raise awareness about the importance of conservation.

Shivani Bhalla and a Samburu warrior practice predator track identification.

Founded in 2010, Warrior Watch is one such initiative launched through Ewaso Lions that harnesses the traditional, protective role of Samburu warriors, or morans, and trains them to become warriors for wildlife. While receiving lessons in English and Kiswahili (the Swahili language), local Samburu morans are employed to promote human-lion coexistence, mitigate conflict, monitor lion populations, collect ecological data and raise community awareness about the importance of conservation.

Another ‘citizen science’ project founded through Ewaso Lions is known as Lion Watch. This project connects the communities of conservation and tourism by training local safari guides to collect ecological data on lions using customized smartphone applications. This partnership allows safari guides to contribute to the conservation of the species generating eco-tourism business and better educate tourists about lion conservation and ecology while on game drives. These tourists, too, can participate in Lion Watch by uploading photos of lions to the Ewaso Lions database.

Panthera’s Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation, totaling $15,000, will support conservation initiatives like these carried out through Ewaso Lions. This award has been conferred annually since 2007 to a special individual under the age of 40 who has made a significant contribution to conserving wild cats, and who represents the next generation of scientists, conservationists, policy makers, politicians and planners who will pave the future of wild cat conservation.

Now on track to complete her PhD thesis at Oxford University, entitled “The ecology and conservation of lions within the Samburu-Isiolo ecosystem in northern Kenya,” and collaborating closely with other lion conservationists in eastern and southern Africa, Shivani Bhalla exemplifies the expertise, dedication and impact on the future of wild cats that the Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize was created to honor.

Learn more about the Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation.

Ewaso Lions Photo Gallery