As always, here’s the link to my source material.
Dr. Leela Hazza was born in Egypt and she grew up with her father’s stories about the lions he used to hear as a child; they were extinct in North Africa in his lifetime, but their ghosts inspired her to study conservation biology in the United States. In 2004, she was invited to join a team that was trying to determine the reasons so many lions were being killed in the Amboseli region of southern Kenya, and she moved into a Maasi community. After learning their language and befriending their children, she was given the title “Nasera” which means “woman of leadership,” and after seven years of research, Dr. Hazzah realized there were two main reasons lions were dying. One was due to human-wildlife conflict with cattle ranchers and the other was that killing a lion was a rite of passage into adulthood for Maasi boys. She began the Lion Guardians Organization in 2007, the idea for which came from the Maasi themselves. They wanted a chance to do their part to help conservationists, since tribal voices aren’t usually included in the quest to protect the environment – this was a welcome advancement in the field and has become a model for engagement with indigenous peoples worldwide. The group trains unemployed Maasi men and those who have killed lions to track lions; they’re assigned a certain tract of land to monitor, and when a lion pride’s presence is detected, the guardian must alert local ranchers so that cattle can be moved out of harm’s way. In 2014, Dr. Hazzah was named a CNN Hero and thanks to her tireless devotion, lion slaughter has all but been eliminated in the Amboseli. Although there is still much that needs to be done in other countries to protect these noble beasts, the Lion Guardians prove that including indigenous populations in conservation efforts is the clearest path forward to protecting the world’s most vulnerable wildlife.
For a more in-depth look at this subject, I highly recommend When The Last Lion Roars: The Rise and Fall Of The King Of The Beasts by Sara Evans.
2 thoughts on “Unsung Heroes: Women In Conservation – Dr. Leela Hazzah (born 1979)”
Thanks again, Jennie.
An informative and interesting article. How conservation should work.
Yes! I think this really should be the model for all conservation programs tbh. If it could work with the Maasai, it could work for other tribes and indigenous groups as well.