Meet Shivani Bhalla: A Speaker at Our Upcoming ESGx Event on July 14th
Meet Shivani Bhalla, Conservation Biologist, National Geographic Explorer, and National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, grantee.
Bhalla is a fourth-generation Kenyan who is working to safeguard the future of Kenya’s rapidly declining lion populations. She is both the founder and executive director of Ewaso Lions, a conservation organization that uses scientific research and community outreach to promote coexistence between people and lions who share habitats. Ewaso Lions is the only organization that focuses on lions that live both inside and outside northern Kenya’s protected areas. There are now fewer than 2,000 lions in all of Kenya, and they could vanish within two decades if habitat loss and human conflict with said animals continues. Ewaso Lions's innovative community outreach programs, which involve young tribal warriors as well as women and children, are helping foster local support for conservation. Shivani’s team has dramatically changed local attitudes, and the lion population she monitors has grown to its highest numbers in over a dozen years.
Shivani Bhalla feels a strong sense of duty towards wildlife, and she wants others to feel it too. Now based in Samburu in northern Kenya, the conservationist has worked for over 17 years with lions in the region. As lion habitats have contracted due to land-use change, the conflict between lions and humans has increased.
The African lion, one of the continent’s most iconic species, was once widely distributed across Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and parts of Europe. Its range now limited to a patchwork of disconnected areas strewn across sub-Saharan Africa, the species is now classified as vulnerable by IUCN.
Shivani has seen the challenges facing these lions firsthand. Kenya’s recent economic growth has also included agricultural and industrial expansion into lion territory. Habitat loss from the expansion has created tension between lions and communities. As lions struggle to find enough of their natural prey, they target livestock. Impacted communities sometimes defend their herds, and livelihoods which lead to retaliatory killings of the lions.
Lions have also changed their behavior in an apparent attempt at self-preservation. As soon as they leave protected land and enter more populated areas, they tend to become nocturnal—active at night, and hiding in the thick bush during the day.
Shivani and her team have developed a number of successful programs designed to respond to the new reality of increased human-lion encounters, targeting all segments of the regional population. Warrior Watch is a network of Samburu warriors acting as first responders to human-lion conflicts. Mama Simba, a conservation training program, is designed for Samburu women.
Looking to the future, a Lion Kids camp program provides conservation education and safari experiences to children. Shivani says she hopes to inspire these budding young conservationists to do work in Kenya. “People talk about children as the next generation of conservationists,” she says. “I like to call them a ‘new’ generation because children can be conservationists today.”
For Shivani, it’s about more than just saving the species; she’s working to preserve something key to national identity. “Kenya's my country,” she says. “I was born there. We have incredible wildlife and wilderness, but if I, as a Kenyan, don't act and do conservation, I would feel like I've let my country down.”
We are lucky enough to have Shivani Bhalla speak in our upcoming ESGx event on July 14th. If you want to hear Bhalla’s opinions on human’s relationship with nature register below for our ESGx event: Re-thinking Our Relationship With Nature.
On June 30th, ESGX will host "Survival Instinct: Rethinking Our Relationship With Nature" to discuss:
How are the frictions between people and wildlife growing?
Did this contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic?
How has funding been impacted?
How can we best support wildlife organizations and educators?