Welcome to our African lion tracker.  We are using state-of-the-art SMART (Species Movement, Acceleration, and Radio Tracking) wildlife collars to follow a number of male coalitions and female prides in Laikipia County Kenya.  Data is transmitted via Iridium satellite to our servers in Santa Cruz, California where we make it available to you to remotely explore the lives of these amazing animals.  How far do lions move in a day?  How big are their home ranges?  Who is courting who?  Here you can explore the data and answer these and many more of your questions about lion biology.  Over time we will also add more features to explore the data in new ways.  So keep coming back to see what is new.  Please note that we delay the data by 7 days for the public to protect the current location of the animals.  Current data is shared with local landowners, however, so they can do their best to avoid confrontation between livestock and lions.



Research and Conservation

The GPS/Iridium collars collect location and movement data throughout the day and send them to us every morning. The movement data are displayed on this website so that Laikipia residents know where lions are located at any point in time and are able to instruct herders to avoid areas with a lion pride on that day.  As many of the ranches have safari tourism to complement their livestock income, our real time information enables them to find the lions for their guests. Lions are normally very difficult to find in this bushy landscape, so knowing where they are ahead of time greatly increases the chance that local guides can find lions for visitors. Ranchers follow their activity with great interest by learning about their comings and goings on a daily basis, and are becoming even more enthusiastic advocates for lion conservation.  Laikipia landowners protect rather than eliminate large predators among their cattle, providing a model for livestock producers elsewhere, such as the North American West and Europe, where wolves and bears are increasing after centuries of persecution.

While the lion population in Laikipia is doing well, population densities are still below those in fully protected areas.  This is due in part to the fact that cattle are more abundant than wild prey but largely unavailable to lions, but other factors may explain the fact that female lions in some parts of Laikipia seem to be quite successful at raising cubs, whereas those in other parts fail repeatedly.  One factor driving this discrepancy is probably that continued shooting by a small minority of ranches in some areas means that mothers do not have female companions to help in cub-rearing, so litters fall prey to other predators.  However, the adverse impact of human activity on lion energetics may also play a role. The energetic budget of an animal is its lifeblood. If an animal can’t maintain energy balance, it will soon die. And females cannot successfully reproduce if they cannot acquire more calories than they need for their own survival.

However, it is likely that other human land management practices are also important through their impacts on female energetics. We have found that lions change their movement patterns, habitat use, and even social structure in response to human activities on the landscape, and these changes might cost all lions energetically. We suspect that in some parts of their range it just takes too much work to raise cubs because females have to expend too much energy avoiding human activity to provide sufficiently for their cubs.