Close to 400 people turned up for the official opening ceremony of the new Ewaso Lions Conservation Centre. Community members, partners, donors, and friends all gathered to mark this huge milestone for Ewaso Lions.
After having spent half the night erecting marquees, the team was up before dawn to ensure everything was ready. Soon, amidst a backdrop of celebratory song, lorry loads of community members began to arrive from all corners of Westgate Conservancy.
Arguably the most impressive entrance, however, came from Ewaso Lions’ own Mama Simba ladies. Travelling by foot from their manyatta, the women could be heard long before they could be seen and, when they did arrive, they came laden with gourds of milk that were gifts to be used in the blessing of the new camp.
Once all the guests had assembled, the designated Master of Ceremonies, Daniel Letoiye, invited the Chairman of Westgate Conservancy to cut the ribbon and declare the Ewaso Lions Conservation Centre officially open. Led by Mzee Lalmaoi, the community elders then performed a moving blessing; chanting in unison as they filed right through camp spraying a mixture of cows milk (itself viewed as a blessing) and water (to signify that life cannot exist without water).
Then Mama Simba ladies, accompanied by other women from other locations, performed a vibrant welcoming song that had the crowd clapping along and Westgate Conservancy Management on their feet dancing!
Children from Lpus Leluai Primary School also treated the audience to a fun drama that incorporated several of Ewaso Lions community programmes; including Warrior Watch, Mama Simba and Lion Kids Camp. The children then performed a song and a lovely poem that explained how they are proud to be a part of Westgate Conservancy and encouraged their communities to join in with local conservation efforts.
In her speech, Ewaso Lion founder Shivani Bhalla described how the project has grown from a team of four in 2008 to a team of 32 full-time staff today. She explained how the old camp didn’t meet the needs of the growing team, especially with the long-term vision that Ewaso Lions has for lion conservation. She thanked those that helped make this dream a reality with the establishment of the new Camp. Jeneria then talked about the work of Ewaso Lions, and how crucial working with the community is for all conservation efforts.
In typical Samburu fashion, the event concluded with a prayer and an impressive feast of nyama!
This blog was originally published on www.ewasolions.org