Leela Hazzah Fights to Keep Endangered Lions Alive

Leela Hazzah is a young biologist crusading against the needless lion-killings occurring in Africa. In the past 20 years, lion populations have fallen 85%, and it is estimated that today only 26,000 remain. Her work is focused in southwestern Kenya, where conservation is viewed more as political motive than a way to better the Earth. Different groups have suggested numerous ways of restoring the lion population, including compensation for livestock killed by predators, translocation, controlled trophy-hunting, and even cloning.

Hazzah has come up with a much simpler solution. After spending time with the local Maasai tribe, she believes that the solution lies within the problem. Many of the lion killings have occurred because of the Maasai tribe’s traditions. They participate in trophy-hunting. When a young man within the tribe kills a lion, the fame remains with him the rest of his life. For the rest of his life, the man is called the name of the lion that bests suits him (the Maasai have many different words for lion) and he can marry any women within the village.

Instead of killing the lions as a means of fame, Hazzah suggests getting the tribesmen to protect the lions. These Lion Guardians would follow and track the lions. They would discourage poachers and those wanting to kill lions for destroying their cattle. This plan, however, is based on the hope that by gaining a few key tribesmen to support it, the majority of the tribe will join the crusade.

Though this article is extremely interesting, the thing that I find most incredible about it is where I found it. I did not go on NY Times online or search through the newspaper. I instead found it while reading a recent issue of Vogue magazine. What fascinates me most about the human urge to save the planet is that it is relatively new. Similar to Hazzah’s plan of gaining the tribe’s approval by converting a few key members, so has a plan been exposed to protect the Earth. It has suddenly become a “thing” to be an environmentalist or conservationist. By gaining the concern of a few key members of society who are constantly in the spotlight, or by having the conservationist crusade published in a widely circulating magazine, the message is conveyed to the general public as something that deserves our upmost attention.

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