for National Geographic News
The positive trend is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal situation for lions in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, said Laurence Frank, a wildlife biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Less than a year ago, Frank reported that Maasai warriors appeared poised to obliterate southern Kenya's lion population.
(Read: "Lion Killings Spur Fears of Regional Extinction in Kenya" [May 22, 2006].)
The big cats are speared as part of a manhood ritual and poisoned to prevent livestock predation, he explained.
In 2006 a total of 32 lions in the region were killed.
But a compensation program, combined with a newfound passion for conservation, has allowed the lion population on one communally owned ranch to increase from 15 to 25, or about 67 percent, in the midst of the surrounding slaughter.
"We've made remarkable progress in a short time," said Frank, who directs the Living With Lions project in Kenya.
"The lions seem to be doing better where we and our partners are working."
(Frank's research has been funded in part by the National Geographic Conservation Trust. The Conservation Trust and National Geographic News are both divisions of the National Geographic Society.)
Compensation and Pride
The project seeks to reverse the dramatic decline in lion populations outside the African country's national parks and game reserves. It works closely with several groups in southern Kenya.
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