Jeneria Lekilelei
Jeneria and Shivani on patrol Author: Tyrel Bernardini
2021

Jeneria Lekilelei

Conservation Advocate

lionhearted leadership

meet jeneria

Jeneria Lekilelei is Director of Community Conservation for the NGO, Ewaso Lions. As a youth, he saw lions only as killers of goats and cows, a threat to his community’s livelihood. Spending time with lions caused a shift in his thinking – he began to see them as threatened rather than as a threat. Jeneria conceived the Warrior Watch Program in 2010, engaging Samburu warriors in lion conservation. He has won Disney’s Conservation Hero Award (2015), the Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Award, the Paradise Foundation Inaugural Africa’s Ranger Award (2018), and was a finalist for the 2019 Tusk Conservation Awards.

lionhearted leadership
Nominated by: Joe Rhode FN'10
Class of 2021 Location Kenya
Jeneria with warriors on foot patrol
Jeneria with warriors on foot patrol Author: Tyrel Bernardini

Lions are in my bloodstream now. Over the last 8 years, the lion population in our region has been stable. I attribute some of this to the Samburu warriors who are engaged in conservation in northern Kenya in the Warrior Watch. This herder alerting system stops conflict before it starts, and lion numbers have tripled. My future plans include training a new warrior demographic to continue with Warrior Watch as the older generation of warriors transition to eldership. I see this as part of a wider plan for Kenyans and Africans to reclaim ownership of our wildlife as part of our own story.

Mentorship is key to my work. Through our programs at Ewaso Lions, we take school children and herders to see lions up close, which helps to build and mentor future conservationists.

“Ever since I came to learn about lions, including how they are threatened and how similar they are to us in how they think, I really now love lions. They are my driving force. If the lions need help, I can’t say, ‘I will do it tomorrow.’ I will help them immediately”

- Jeneria Lekilelei
Jeneria (centre) engages with other warriors about the importance of lion conservation
Jeneria (centre) engages with other warriors about the importance of lion conservation Author: David Chancellor

Ever since I came to learn about lions, including how they are threatened and how similar they are to us in how they think, I really now love lions. They are my driving force. If the lions need help, I can’t say, “I will do it tomorrow.” I will help them immediately. If I stop and conflict happens, this pushes me to continue mutual coexistence.

Exploration is often about people coming from far away to see and do exotic things. For me, exploration is about working tirelessly at home with my people. It’s about solving a problem to help one of the world’s most iconic animals to keep roaming our landscapes. It takes a lot of work and a lot of people. It also means keeping my culture alive in the face of many changes. Yet, it is not just about me and my team, it’s about the whole community, the country, and the world. We all need to save lions for our children.

never stop exploring

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