Stephanie Dolrenry
Author: Philip J. Briggs

Stephanie Dolrenry

Wildlife Conservationist

LINCing lions and warriors

meet stephanie

Stephanie Dolrenry is a human community member interpreting on behalf of the natural world. After nearly three decades in conservation in terrain ranging from mountains to islands to African bushlands, observing animals from birds to carnivores, she is a naturalist, an academic and an adventurer. Stephanie has lived with Maasai communities for two decades in southern Kenya, experiencing true human-wildlife interactions, coexistence and conflict. For a sustainable future, Stephanie focuses on creating a more efficient and effective, open-source, global conservation space, with local and indigenous knowledge at its core, blended with state-of-the-art technologies, resulting in impact-, human- and nature-focused conservation.

LINCing lions and warriors
Nominated by: Milbry Polk MED'95
Class of 2023 Location Kenya

I was trained to not believe what the communities report, to use only tools that pass peer-review if I wanted to be a good scientist. I did not find one lion using the methods I was taught in school. What I have found to be more important in being a good conservationist and scientist: respect the knowledge of those who have spent more time on the land. I am part of a large effort that has resulted in resounding conservation success: the rebound of African lions in a human and livestock-dominated landscape where they were nearly extirpated. The Guardians, traditional Maasai warriors we employ to protect their communities, livestock, and the lions, are exceptionally accurate at finding and understanding the lions with whom they share a landscape. By working together, we built a base of knowledge about lion individuals without using widely used and accepted methods.

“I have listened and learned from those living closest to lions. I have also been challenged by their questions.”

- Stephanie Dolrenry

I have listened and learned from those living closest to lions. I have also been challenged by their questions: the cubs we had watched grow up that had dispersed, where did they go? When new individual lions came into our population, where did they come from? To answer these, I conceptualized and developed Lion Identification Network of Collaborators (LINC), the world’s first and only lion ID system to date. Using cutting-edge AI technology and a user-friendly interface, LINC helps Maasai warriors and the broader conservation community better understand networks of lion populations and how they were, or were not, connecting.

I encourage approaches to make lion conservation more respectful of the warriors’ tremendous knowledge and skills, leading to more effective conservation tools and approaches across the globe. I hope for nature conservation to be a global priority led by people from all reaches, where traditional knowledge is highly valued and at the heart of effective impact-based conservation. I want to see a world where nature and all species, including the human species, thrive.

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read about the class of 2023