After Dr. Shivani Bhalla founded Ewaso Lions in Kenya in 2007, she became used to working with Samburu warriors. But the most feisty attitude came from one of the women of the tribe—Munteli Lalparasaroi. Shivani’s mission is to protect and conserve lions in their natural habitat, and to promote their coexistence with humans. She had worked with young Samburu men between 2007 and 2013, but “This young lady was not having that,” she says of Munteli. “She became a very familiar sight to me every single day when I drove into camp…she would come to me and say, ‘You need to work with me; I also can do lion conservation. I know I can do just as much as the warriors do, so please let me start a program with women and lions.’ And I was just amazed and so inspired by this incredible woman.”

Shivani gave Munteli the opportunity, and the result was Mama Simba (literally, “mother of lions”)—a group of extraordinary women devoted to Ewaso Lions’ mission. The two didn’t speak a common language when they began working together, but when Shivani and Munteli had to travel together, Munteli learned Swahili in four days to facilitate communication. Munteli gave her first global talk for the Women Blaze Trails festival, with Shivani translating from Swahili to English. “These are our lions; we live with them and even their numbers have gone up because we’ve really been helping them,” Munteli says. “But lions face a lot of problems and here you can see there’s no grass. So lions don’t have enough food because their food also don’t have enough food…this is when lions go and kill cows and then the community get really upset and then they go kill the lions.”

The lions often don’t have another choice if they want to live, she explains. So the women of Mama Simba do everything they can to abate the situation—such as planting grass in order to feed the lions’ natural prey. Additionally, Munteli says, “We use our voices to talk to the community about helping lions.”

Munteli got to such a position by observing the male warriors and insisting she and other women could do the same thing. She saw them getting an education, and requested the same; now she can read and write. Seeing Shivani drive, she asked to do the same. As a result, she went to a remote school for a month and had to learn from teachers who spoke a language she didn’t know. And she became the first woman in the tribe to drive. “The women can do exactly what the men do,” she says. “I have shown women the way. I have shown them that nothing is hard; it’s easy.”

  

About Shivani Bhalla

Born and raised in Kenya, Shivani believes the key to lion conservation is working in partnership with local communities. She founded Ewaso Lions in 2007 to promote co-existence between carnivores and people - a project that she now co-leads with her team. Together with her team, she works with communities to reduce livestock loss to carnivores, and monitors the existing lion population within the Samburu-Isiolo landscape in northern Kenya. Shivani, with her team, have created successful community programmes including Warrior Watch, Mama Simba and Lion Kids Camps. Shivani moved to Samburu in 2002 and lives in the Ewaso Lions Camp in Westgate Conservancy with her team and two dogs, Kura and Nanyori.

  

About Munteli Lalparasaroi

Munteli is the driving force behind Ewaso Lions’ Mama Simba (“mother of lions”) programme. Munteli was eager to get involved in conservation and this led to the creation of the Mama Simba programme in 2013. She drives (the first Samburu woman from a village in the region to drive!), teaches other Mama Simba ladies, locates lions, attends to conflict, plants grass with women to restore the landscape, leads wildlife safaris with women, and much more. Over the years, Munteli has become an incredible spokeswoman for lions.

  

About Women Blaze Trails Festival:  

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11), LenovoEDU sponsored Women Blaze Trails, a virtual 3-day festival celebrating women in science, exploration, and conservation from around the world.  

The virtual festival had one simple goal: celebrating incredible women, doing incredible things around the world, day in and day out. We’re sharing these videos from the festival so you can meet scientists, explorers, conservationists, filmmakers, photographers and more, showcasing their work, challenges, adventures, research and expeditions. 

Anonymous
  • I wish I could do more to help save wild animals!

  • People have just so much potential, they just need to have a bit of space and opportunity to let that potential grow into amazing things like Munteli did.  Very inspiring.  Thank you for this story.

  • Lions are so majestic.

  • Would love to see these lions in person in the wild.

  • Lions are such majestic animals.