Download the Executive Summary

erishata elotu."

Opportunity does not
roar as it approaches.




"Opportunity does not
roar as it approaches."

A year of opportunity

At Lion Guardians, our greatest successes have been borne out of seemingly insurmountable challenges, and 2020 was no exception. We found extraordinary opportunities that enabled us to hone our work, further improve outcomes for lions and communities, and reconsider some of the basic assumptions behind conservation. We are proud to share the growth and impacts we have achieved over the last year.


Black man looking at deviceBaby liongroup of children together


An opportunity

to reflect

woman with lots of decorative accessories

“During COVID, I learned while we may not be connected through blood—we may not even know each other—we are all connected through humanity.”

Jackson Kikardi, Lion Guardians Assistant Program Manager

When COVID cast its shadow around the world, everything suddenly became uncertain—including how we could protect lions, communities, and our team in the midst of a pandemic. But we took this as an opportunity to strategically reflect on nearly every action in our program, looking at the safety, efficiency, and outcomes of each. Through this reflection, we found ways to streamline our research and conflict work, as well as expand our support to communities in this difficult time. And as a result, we ended up with a safer and more effective conservation program and a deeper relationship with local stakeholders.


Masks distributed


bars of soap distributed


community health workers supported with equipment
Lion Guardians is the first organization to offer us help during this crisis. We appreciate the organization for thinking about us during this difficult time when the world is fighting an unknown disease.
-Oloiboni Tamei, Village Elder, Iloirero community


An opportunity

to focus

two lions on visible and one blurred out

“There are so many lions now—they are thriving. But that means our work, too, must change.”

Luke Maamai, Lion Guardians Program Manager

man pointing light at forestfour lions laying on grass

Our successes and those of our conservation allies have contributed to unprecedented outcomes in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. Today, many Maasai in the area—especially young people—actively want lions in their ecosystem. The local lion population has been steadily increasing for years, and lions are now regularly dispersing from our ecosystem to new areas, providing critical genetic diversity to populations across East Africa.


of surveyed Maasai from our area want lions in their ecosystem


lions estimated in our area of operation


increase in lion population
density since 2004


increase in lion dispersal since 2007
With these successes has come a new challenge: more lions means more attacks on livestock, causing increased tension. In 2020, we recognized that the changing pattern of conflict was an opportunity to focus our work, and made a team-wide decision to prioritize intense and proactive conflict mitigation.
 gif of map
In the second half of 2020, conflict regularly flared as a result of depredations.


An opportunity

to adapt

man guiding a lot of sheep

“Guardian Orumoi kept vigil night after night during a time when lion attacks were high. This allowed many of us to sleep at night so we could work the next day and provide for our families.

Kapaito Ole Seleka, Village Elder, Enkong’u Narok

Focusing on our conflict mitigation work gave us the opportunity to better meet current needs in our ecosystem. During 2020, we grew our team and expanded our toolbox to include innovative mitigation tools rooted in both traditional knowledge and rigorous science, enabling us to respond more quickly and effectively when hotspots flare.

We also doubled down on our efforts to proactively avoid lion-livestock conflict, such as locating lost livestock and employing “master herders” to improve local husbandry practices. We are even working to predict when and where hotspots may occur, based on various biological and social variables—such as moon phases and school holidays—and adapting our work in response. Read our case study on moon phases here.


new management & conflict team members hired


days spent on the ground in mobile conflict camps


mock hunts conducted


success in containing & cooling conflict hotspots


of hunts stopped alongside our conservation partners KWS and Big Life Foundation


An opportunity

to question

lion on grass

“We always need to be asking ourselves ‘why?’—if we aren't doing that, we can't deliver effective conservation solutions.

Salisha Chandra, Lion Guardians Director of Strategy and Knowledge Management

This year, as COVID and increased conflict prompted us to take an introspective look at our work, we pioneered a large-scale project to improve the understanding and use of metrics in the field of conservation. We created a framework of questions to help organizations understand and define the system in which they work, the goals they have for their work, and the potential effects of their actions. For example:

Who are the beneficiaries of the work, and what are their needs?
What other forces, interactions, and stakeholders are involved in the system?
What is the Problem you are trying to address, and what are the key drivers?
What is the long-lasting change that you want to see?
Who are the actions that you will take to create this change?
What unintended effects might result from your actions?
Who are the beneficiaries of the work, and what are their needs?
What other forces, interactions, and stakeholders are involved in the system?
What is the problem you are trying to address, and what are the key drivers?
What is the long-lasting change that you want to see?
What are the actions that you will take to create this change?
What unintended effects might result from your actions?

We are now using this framework to evaluate and improve our own efforts, such as honing our conflict work and collecting metrics better suited to our goals. We have also begun to share this framework more widely to assist other organizations, starting with Women for the Environment: Africa (WE Africa).

two men walking


An opportunity

to connect

two men smiling

“Lion Guardians are the best example of an organization that shares its experiences and lessons learned, allowing their impact to grow through the development of others.”

William Ole Seki, Maasai elder and cofounder of KOPELion, Ngorongoro Tanzania

We are energized by the new knowledge, experience, and perspective we gained in 2020, yet in order to take full advantage of what we learned, we need to share it with others. Last year brought fresh opportunities to connect with colleagues and supporters around the world through both traditional and unexpected avenues. Our team delved deeply into collaborative initiatives, published new scientific findings, and embraced the pandemic-inspired explosion of virtual venues.

Impact Scaling

Our LINC database garnered requests from potential new users from Zimbabwe to India. In 2020, the LINC team focused on adapting the servers, system, and personnel to enable growth in LINC’s user base and its underlying AI technology.

Via the PRIDE Lion Conservation Alliance, we continued to help shape collaborative conservation efforts, including co-hosting the 2020 Pathways Conservation Conference in Kenya. This was the largest and most diverse Pathways event to date, and included a four-day women’s conservation leadership training for 30 senior managers from 14 countries in Africa.

Over the last three years, we have helped conceive, create, and develop WE Africa, a 12-month environmental leadership program. WE Africa launched in January 2021 with a founding cohort of 20 diverse women leaders from 12 African countries; you can learn more in this video.

We collaborated to help build the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, a brand-new initiative that provides expert assistance, training, collaboration, and shared research to enable coexistence around the world. Lion Guardians serves on the IWCN’s ‘Coexistence Council’ and helps model the implementation and benefits of community-led solutions.

We continued to help shape collaborative conservation efforts via the PRIDE Lion Conservation Alliance, including co-hosting the 2020 Pathways Conservation Conference in Kenya, the largest and most diverse Pathways conference to date. PRIDE also ran a four-day women’s conservation leadership training for 30 senior managers from 14 countries in Africa.

Media & Outreach

Scientific Publications

We shared herding best practices that reduce human-wildlife conflict, improve pasture management, and maximize productivity. We incorporated these guidelines into our own work, for example by employing “master herders” to help communities improve their livestock management. 

Another publication documented multi-generational links between dispersing lions from Tsavo West, Amboseli, and Nairobi National Parks. This illustrates that community lands can serve as “corridors of tolerance” that enable lions to move between protected areas—a finding that sparks new hope for lions in these landscapes.
two men with a kine of cows


An opportunity

to sustain

feet of a man on dust

“I am so grateful for the generous support we received this year. It is a great motivation to our team to know that so many people all around the world believe in us and what we do.”

Jeremiah Purka, Lion Guardians Conflict Team Leader

In 2020, the pandemic gave rise to an uncertain fundraising environment, so we tightened our belts and became more fiscally conservative. We reduced funding to program areas affected by COVID lockdowns such as impact scaling, since we were unable to travel for partner engagements. Yet 2020 gave us opportunities to scale our work using lower-cost and accessible virtual venues. Meanwhile, we directed a higher proportion of our resources toward our Lion Guardians Amboseli conflict mitigation efforts and, in doing so, sustained and grew our core work. By hiring needed conflict team members and giving performance raises, we also bolstered our support from the community.

Below, we detail revenue received through our fiscal sponsor, Lion Guardians U.S., as well as expenditures by program area for our field operations in Kenya and our support of other grassroots initiatives in Africa. Lion Guardians is looking toward the future as we build our short- and long-term reserves to serve as a permanent source of income and strengthen our financial position.

two lions laying down

Revenue and Expenses, Calendar Year Ending 2020

(Complete financial reports are available upon request.)
Total 2020 Revenue
Total 2020 Expenditures
Change in Net Assets
revenue chartExpenditures pie chart


An opportunity

to hope

two lion cubs laying down

“Considering the challenges last year, things could have been very bleak. But we decided to use these opportunities to think, evolve, and become better at what we do. We now look at the future with great hope.”

Eric Ole Kesoi, Lion Guardians Community Manager

two lions laying downman smilingview of the sky and grassland

Opportunity truly does not roar as it approaches; in 2020, our team had to work hard to recognize opportunities and make difficult decisions to capitalize on them. As a result of these efforts, we are better able to evaluate our impacts, focus our work, and connect with others. We are committed to making further progress on these efforts in 2021 and beyond, by: 

  • Committing more resources to our mobile conflict work and developing new, innovative mitigation tools;
  • Further testing our assumptions and evaluating the effectiveness of our interventions to ensure maximum impacts;
  • Sharing our metrics framework with interested organizations and working with them on implementation;
  • Connecting in new ways to bring awareness to our efforts, share our lessons learned, and support other organizations;
  • Staying abreast of the COVID situation to ensure the safety and resilience of our team and neighboring communities.

The entire Lion Guardians team is invigorated by the prospect of a brighter future for communities, lions, and conservation. Thank you to the generous network of supporters that continues to make our impacts possible and enables us to seize opportunities that come our way.

A Special Thanks

The Woodtiger Fund
Ganesh Ramani
Acacia Conservation Fund
The Bromley Charitable Trust
The Wildcat Foundation
The Shared Earth Foundation
The Blue Foundation 
One Voice Charitable Fund
Rosenthal Family Foundation
Jessie M. Harris
The BAND Foundation
Stadler Family Charitable Foundation
Wildlife Guardians