Olubi Ole Lairumbe

“In the second half of 2023, my home community, Imbirikani, was confronted with significant challenges. Lions attacked multiple livestock, causing significant loss for livestock owners. The escalating human-lion conflict prompted Lion Guardians to establish a mobile conflict camp in these hotspots so that the team could respond as fast as possible to any incidents.

Together, with local residents we came up with interventions that successfully mitigated conflicts and eased tension between the community and the lions. Over a one month period, our mobile camp conducted night patrols that prevented lion attacks on bomas (livestock enclosures), we safely escorted livestock through lion-prone areas, and rescued six herds whose herders were incapacitated. The community's gratitude reflected the power of collaboration between conservation stakeholders and the local community, underscoring the effectiveness of unity in resolving conflicts."

Olubi Ole Lairumbe has been a Lion Guardian in the Maasai lands surrounding Amboseli National Park in Kenya since the program's inception in 2007. Before that, during his early years as a Maasai moran, Olubi took five lion lives and earned the nickname "Mitiaki" which means brave warrior. Among the lions he killed was a female that was pregnant with five cubs. He regretted killing this lioness very much, and for this reason volunteered to become a Lion Guardian instead of continuing to kill carnivores. In choosing Guardians, the program initially gave priority to past lion killers because they had the respect of their Maasai communities. Once selected, each Lion Guardian to this day is responsible for tracking the movement of lions through roughly 100 square kilometres of Maasai land, warning herders of areas to avoid, reinforcing bomas (livestock enclosures), tracking lost livestock, and in other ways using traditional skills and knowledge to help and protect their communities. Olubi is now a senior Lion Guardian and serves as a mentor to younger Guardians. His remarkable transition from lion killer to lion protector mirrors a unique shift in Maasai culture.