In the holiday spirit, 3 lions will receive new jewelry (GPS-Satellite Collars) in 2018.


Our Lion Program, Pride in Our Prides, is focused on individualizing the cats so that villagers can learn about their habits and areas of likely conflict. Our study is supported by the use of GPS-Satellite tracking collars that deliver a text alert when an individual approaches the village.


In early January, we will be adding 3 more collars to our study- tracking several animals that we believe are responsible for some of the livestock conflict we have monitored over the last several months. 

These 3 new collars will increase our coverage to 6 lion social groups (prides and coalitions) out of the 13 that we have identified. With support from our donors, we hope to increase our coverage to all social groups by the end of the year!

Dr. Florian "Flo" Weise, Mathata "Pro" Tomeletso and Dr. Andrew Stein

Dr. Florian "Flo" Weise, Mathata "Pro" Tomeletso and Dr. Andrew Stein

Lastly, from our team, we would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and Prosperous 2018! We have so much to look forward to with our work here in Botswana, so thank you all for your interest and continued support!

National Geographic Explorer Classroom with Dr. Andrew Stein!


With Big Cat Week in full swing, National Geographic is hosting their Big Cat Experts for Explorer Classrooms. On December 14th, Dr. Andrew Stein, President and Founder of CLAWS Conservancy, will be the guest from 1-2 pm EST. Join him and host Joe Grabowski from Explore-By-The-Seat-of-Your-Pants, to hear how Dr. Stein got into the field and things he's learned along the way!

Photo: Katy Daily

Photo: Katy Daily

CLICK HERE for the link. Add your comments and questions in the comment bar! 

CLAWS' Dr. Florian Weise Helped Lead the Landmark Study Reveals the Precarious Status of Cheetahs in Southern Africa


Latest Research and Citizen Science Combine to Reveal Precarious Situation for Cheetahs in Southern Africa

Conservation scientists in southern Africa join calls for up-listing the cheetah to Endangered on the IUCN Red List.


MAUN, BOTSWANA: In a new study, led by CLAWS Conservancy researcher Dr. Florian Weise, a group of 17 scientists collaborated to produce a detailed, evidence-based population estimate for cheetahs in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe—an area that hosts the largest population of free-ranging cheetahs left on Earth. The research compilation is now the largest set of cheetah observations in Southern African history and results led research authors to strongly support the recent call for the IUCN to up-list the cheetah from its present Vulnerable conservation status to Endangered.




Few people have ever seen the fastest land animal chase prey across the African savannah. This fact alone tells us two important things about cheetahs: they are elusive, and thus very difficult to count. Knowing their numbers and distribution though helps us understand how the species is coping in a changing, and increasingly humanised, world.



Dr. Weise and his collaborators set out to compile the largest set of cheetah observations for southern Africa in history, collecting and verifying information from both the scientific community and the general public. Cumulatively, the team of authors have spent far over 50 years in the field researching and conserving cheetahs.


The new study “The distribution and number of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in southern Africa” has now been released by open-access journal PeerJ and can be accessed here:



The observations collected revealed that cheetahs in southern Africa occur over a vast 789,700 km2 – that’s 14% larger than the state of Texas, or 23% larger than France! However, the size of the area is misleading, as their calculated density estimates showed that only 3,577 adult cheetahs are likely to live in this huge area. Cheetahs are extremely wide-ranging, and their numbers are limited by the availability of natural prey, competition with larger predators like lion and hyena, and whether or not farmers persecute them due to losses of livestock and farmed game.


The Cheetah’s Precarious Situation

This study confirms that the status of cheetahs on farmlands is the most pressing conservation issue for this species. The researchers found that only 18.4% of the area where cheetahs are known to occur is formally protected. This is especially the case in Namibia, where the largest proportion of the regional cheetah population resides mostly on livestock and game farms. The study revealed that although most farmers tolerate cheetahs, a few persecute them intensively. A comparison of reproduction models with persecution records showed that these few farmers can have serious impacts on the larger population by continually removing cheetahs from their properties.

Photo Stephanie Periquet

Photo Stephanie Periquet


Dr. Weise said, “The future of the cheetah relies heavily on working with farmers who host these big cats on their lands, often bearing the cost of coexistence.”


Despite the vast amounts of information gathered by the team, their efforts exposed big knowledge gaps and uncertainties. Using information about cheetah habitat, human and livestock densities, they identified an area within the four countries almost as large as the confirmed range where cheetahs may live. Given the suitability of this area for cheetahs, the team estimates that another 3,250 wild adult cheetahs may occur here. The authors urge greater research effort in this ‘grey area’ to find out if there are indeed more cheetahs out there than we can prove. For example, large areas of Botswana are suitable for cheetahs, and one may assume that the iconic cat occurs widely. But up-to-date verifiable evidence was hard to find outside the popular protected areas. Zimbabwe provides the smallest known range for the species, whereas South Africa’s wild cheetahs are mostly confined to protected areas and a managed meta-population comprising over 300 animals has been established. Videos and photographs were especially useful for estimating cheetah populations in popular tourist destinations such as the Kruger National Park in South Africa.


Study Implications

The authors conclude that the results of this study strongly support the recent call for the IUCN to up-list the cheetah from its present Vulnerable conservation status to Endangered. This would create additional awareness about the cheetah’s precarious situation, and open up additional avenues to fund conservation and population monitoring efforts. Besides giving direction for further research, the authors provided an example of effective collaboration and transparent information sharing. By pooling all of the available information, and involving the public in monitoring efforts, researchers can assist in identifying areas of conservation concern for the cheetah.

The Newsletter is Here!


With the end of the year upon us, please have a look at our achievements from the last 6 months! We trained herders, tracked lions and cattle for greater protection and spread the word about cat conservation at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. We submitted statements to the Convention on Migratory Species for added protection of leopards and helped decipher cat species in ancient Egyptian art!


Click HERE to read more!  Thank you donors for all of your continued support!

Leopards and Lions are Listed for Protection!


Both Leopards and Lions have been added to Appendix II of the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS). The international meeting that occurred in October, brought together government officials and wildlife advocates to assess the eligibility of each species for this designation. Dr. Andrew Stein, CLAWS founder, was asked to provide a statement as an international leopard expert. In his statement, read on his behalf by the delegation from Kenya, he acknowledged the unique definition of 'migratory' in this convention and supported the listing based on his work with the IUCN Red List update for leopards.  Though leopards are not migratory by the popular definition, the CMS defines it as such "the entire population or any geographically separate part of the population of any species or lower taxon of wild animals, a significant proportion of whose members cyclically and predictably cross one or more national jurisdictional boundaries".  With both leopard and lion geographic ranges becoming increasingly restricted, a significant portion of their populations live in protected areas that are bisected by unfenced international boundaries. During typical movements, these species cross international boundaries, therefore adhering to the definition.


Wildlife advocates spoke in support to ensure an added level of protection for the species, while a few countries spoke in opposition to the designation stating that their individual populations were protected without additional measures.

The measure was overwhelmingly supported by the attending nations which provides a non-binding framework for international collaboration in species conservation. This designation marks the further recognition of the dire situation faced by lions across Africa and leopards across Africa and Asia. We look forward to greater cooperation moving forward!

Read more about this development by clicking HERE

CLAWS Founder presented at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival


CLAWS Founder, Dr. Andrew Stein, presented a Global Perspective on "Conflict to Coexistence" during the Cat Conservation Summit.  He was part of an exciting panel that includes colleagues from World Wildlife Fund, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and project biologists ranging across, Africa, Asia and South America.

Click HERE to learn more

Conflict to Coexistence Panel. Photo: Jan Vertefeiulle

Conflict to Coexistence Panel. Photo: Jan Vertefeiulle

Shishatiya's cub found in the river...


On September 18, we received a call from a guide at the local lodge. There was a dead lion in the river. Quickly, Flo went find the river and found that it was a year old cub. He found the bullet wound and an incision that removed the heart- we are looking into the significance of this. All other parts of the cub were in tact including the teeth, claw and skin. Flo then compared the cubs location to that of our collared lionesses to determine whether their movements overlapped with the cubs location and found a match. It was Shishatiya!

Dr. Florian Weise retrieving the body to perform a necropsy.

Dr. Florian Weise retrieving the body to perform a necropsy.

Shishatiya has been causing lots of problems for villagers over the last few months. First off, she relocated her cubs from the floodplains to an area north of Seronga Village. This is significant because we had not previously recorded lions in this area.  Therefore we can confirm that lions use the woodland area between the villages and the Namibian border- which was previously unrecorded! She has since been picking off livestock and training her 4 cubs how to kill them. The villagers understandably have not been happy.

Shishatiya (left) and her previous subadult cub

Shishatiya (left) and her previous subadult cub

The last time we had seen Shishatiya was over about a month ago and her cubs were all documented. Most of them have survived over a year now, which is quite an accomplishment in this hostile area. As we increase our herder training initiative, we hope that conflicts will be reduced and lions will find other sources of food away from cattle. 

Three Cubs for Mamalapo (Pride mate of Mayenga)

The CLAWS Conservancy started “Pride in Our Prides” in 2014 as a response to devastating poisoning events that killed up to 50% of the local lion population. Since the start of our program, poisoning has stopped completely and not a single known lion was killed in 2016. With the relative stability of the lion prides, we have seen new growth- 17 lion cubs born to 5 different females! A key to our success has been community engagement in our monitoring efforts. The communities have named the lions, the receive alerts when the collared lions approach the villages and see photographs and videos during community presentations. It is this connection that has increased community tolerance in the face of continued and increasing conflicts.


During a trip to the field in July, I found one of our collared lionesses “Mayenga” (meaning ‘Decorated by the Gods’), her pridemate “Mamalapo” (meaning ‘lady of the floodplains’) and their pride male “Gombo” (named for the region of his territory). This pride has had its challenges in recent years. When we first started our program, Mayenga and Mamalapo had 6 cubs. By the end of 2015 they only had two subadult females from those litters. Those females are now reproductive age and will soon contribute to the pride. However, our tracking in 2016 yielded visuals of both Mayenga and Mamalapo mating with Gombo. By November of 2016, we were able to confirm that both Mayenga and Mamalapo had given birth. Mayenga had two cubs and Mamalapo had three. Life for lion cubs is hard. During relatively good times the survival rate in 50%. When we caught up with Mayenga in August, it appeared that she and Gombo were very cozy. She was even showing some flirtation by flicking his face with her tail. This is unusual for a female that has young cubs and it is likely that she lost her two cubs. Mamalapo, however, has 3 strong cubs that are voraciously feeding on meeting. When I met up with them, the pride had killed a zebra and once Gombo was done the cubs had their turn.


Our monitoring program, coupled with community outreach, are key components of our lion conservation initiative. You can not have one without the other. By following the lions, we learn whether our efforts are succeeding. By sharing the stories of these lions we bolster tolerance while promoting livestock safety and ecosystem health.  It is our hope that these cubs can grow up in a world where people see them as a natural part of this system and not a threat.


Livestock Herder Training Course- First in Botswana!


The conflict between subsistence livestock farmers and predators in tenuous in Northern Botswana. In the past villagers have turned to poison to kill lions with cascading effects on other species within the ecosystem.  Lion are killed in retaliation for livestock losses that can be devastating to these subsistence farmers. The CLAWS Conservancy started a lion conservation initiative in 2014 called “Pride in Our Prides” to facilitate engagement of communities in lion conservation and livestock management. Aside from informing villagers about the movements and lifestyles of the lions in their midst, we also strove to address the complex causes of the conflict.


Life in the village has changed drastically in the last 2 generations. Where people used to maintain a more pastoralist lifestyle, they have now set up homesteads. Where young men used to walk among their livestock to maximize grazing and protect against predators and theft, they now attend school. Livestock have been wandering the veld alone and occasionally returning home to weak night-time enclosures.  Herders of the past are all but gone and those that remain retain a low status within the community.

CLAWS began by building lion-proof enclosures made of locally sourced, sustainably harvested branches, woven together to provide a strong barrier for night-time livestock losses. These enclosures only work, however, when the livestock return and most of the conflicts occur when unattended livestock encounter lions. It was clear that we needed to resurrect the traditional herder, not only for livestock protection, but to promote ecological restoration in the areas where overgrazing was taking its toll.


In July 2017, the CLAWS Conservancy held the first herder training course in Botswana.  We worked with facilitators from the African Centre for Holistic Management in a week-long herder training course discussing the effects of overgrazing on soil health, erosion, water retention, livestock health and predator protection. We had 20 participants from ages 24 to 80 including two village chiefs and two women. The participants were so invested in the course that many showed up early and now hunger to set up their grazing plans. At one point, we were working up to the lunch hour. When the facilitators asked if we should break for lunch, the participants replied, “we can skip lunch. We are learning”!  At the conclusion of the course, one of the older participants said, “when I was selected for this course I was afraid since I knew most of it would be presented in English. I was embarrassed that I might not be able to participate. In the end (through our interpreters), I am happy because I learned so much”. One of the female participants said, “Now I know that woman can herd as well”. The diverse participation strengthened our discussions.


In the end, the key points of the course were that the locals themselves, through generations of experimentation, had developed a herding system that promoted healthy ecosystems.  Somehow, in generations, we have gotten away from traditional herding which has led to habitat degradation and conflict. By combining practices of the past and current scientific knowledge of ecosystem dynamics, villagers can take control of their environment and their lives for the betterment of all. This month, we are facilitating a meeting with rangeland ecologists from the University of Botswana to start our new grazing plans in Beetsha! As the program develops we will start training villagers in Eretsha and then Gunotsoga to revitalize the northern edge of the Okavango Delta!


The Flo and Pro Show: The Incredible Field Team of Pride in Our Prides

Pride in Our Prides is the flagship program of the CLAWS Conservancy and its field operation is in the capable hands of an extraordinary team. Dr. Florian ‘Flo’ Weise started with PiOP in May of 2016 and since joining the team he has been following up on lion conflicts, alerting the community to approaching lions, interviewing the influential village leaders and keeping our field staff running at full capacity.  He is constantly tinkering and adapting our program to maximize our efficiency and impact in the communities. Flo is able to drive Pride in Our Prides because he designed a similar program on commercial farms in Namibia while studying leopards, cheetahs and hyenas.  Over 7 years he built a program from a handful of cooperative farmers to a network of over 100 that received alerts and discussed predator conflict strategies with him.  Not only does Flo collect and manage our vast data sources, but he brings together collaborators that develop cutting edge analytical tools to keep us at the forefront of predator conservation. When he is not pushing the leading edge of our lion conservation work, he is working on various research initiatives with cheetahs and African wild dogs.

Issuing Lion Alert Late at Night.JPG

‘Pro’ was born in Eretsha, one of our focal villages. Though we initially thought Pro stood for “Professional” he told us that his name is Mathata Tomeletso. Mathata, you may know from the song Hakuna Matata (No Worries), can mean ‘Problems’, hence his shortened name.  Pro worked closely with Eric LeFlore as the first field assistant on the project. He is well connected in the community, works very hard and has a knack for learning new field techniques. He currently manages the team that builds our lion-proof livestock enclosures, conducts interviews with community members when livestock are lost to predators and learns all that he can about computers, GPS use and data entry.  When asked what he would like from America, he asked for books on management. He certainly has plans for his future.  Though Pro has a professional guiding license that could bring him a larger paycheck he said, “I want to learn about research and see where this rabbit will rot”. When asked for an explanation of the latter he said that it is a local saying that means you want to see it all the way to the end.  He is committed to our work and shows a willingness to work long hours.

Thank you Flo and Pro for your incredible abilities and commitment to this program. It is growing by leaps and bounds because of your continued investment!

CLAWS Founder Speaks at National Geographic's Explorer Festival

Dr. Andrew Stein talks lion conservation during Nat Geo's Explorer Festival. Photo credit: Ian Foulk

Dr. Andrew Stein talks lion conservation during Nat Geo's Explorer Festival. Photo credit: Ian Foulk

On June 14th, Dr. Andrew Stein gave a brief overview of Pride in Our Prides during Explorer Festival at National Geographic Headquarters in DC. Explorer Festival is an annual get together of Explorers and Photographers from far and wide sharing their research and stories from the field. It is also a tremendous opportunity to speak to colleagues and develop collaborations.  The event was inspiring and will hopefully lead to some exciting initiatives in the near future. Stay tuned!

Explorer's pose for the group shot. Photo credit: Randall Scott

Explorer's pose for the group shot. Photo credit: Randall Scott

Can Crocodile Decoys to Keep Lions at Bay?


Crocodiles are the the most fearsome predator in the Okavango Waterways. They have been known to kill lions and other species that attempt to cross- even influencing their movements. When the rivers are high and crossings are few, could crocodile decoys deter lions from crossing the river at their favorite spots? We will attempt to find out!  We will review lion movement data from the satellite tracking collars to determine whether there are routine crossing points, then deploy these life-like crocodile decoys to assess the reactions of lions, cattle and other species.


The text came in late at night- "MORTALITY EVENT DETECTED ON COLLAR 19368"- that's Mutlawankanda! The activity sensor in the collar had not been triggered in 24 hours generating a "Mortality Notification". Our field team took the coordinates for the last GPS fix and found the evidence of his final moments. They found areas of grass pressed down with pools of blood leading to another resting spot and more blood. Eventually they found him with a single bullet hole that penetrated his lungs. Mutlawankanda signifies the first lion killed in over 18 months and the first collared animal killed during our study.

Darting Mutlwankanda.jpg

He was a key individual, initially presiding over a pride with two females and six young cubs. In the 20 months of tracking, we've seen Mutlawankanda pushed north (by our newly collared male Gombo). He then developed a partnership with Nduraghombo and likely sired Maleherehere's new cubs. Now these cubs are in jeopardy as Nduraghumbo will have to defend his territory alone. 

The lions, however, are only half the story. In the last 6 months, the communities have absorbed over 80 cattle deaths from lion attacks. To many of these subsistence cattle owners a single loss can be devastating. Frustrations are high. Villagers have started carrying guns and following lion tracks- leading to attack report in our previous blogpost. So, it is not surprising that lions were in the hotseat. Lion populations are growing steadily in our area putting stress on the tenuous relationship between villagers and the big cats.

With all these conflicts, what do we do? Well, we have learned a few things about lion conflicts. First, most of them occur away from the village in the floodplains when cattle are roaming without a herder. Lions encounter these herds when following zebra and find the cattle to be easy prey. Therefore, we are developing our training program based on traditional herding practices. We will discuss the importance of responsible herding in promoting livestock health, rangeland management to encourage healthy ecosystems and predator conflict mitigation. 

We hope that our community partnerships and herder training will mitigate the conflicts at the core of these challenges!

Our Study Mapping Black Panthers in published!

Dr. Andrew Stein was part of a team of biologists who studied the distribution of Black Panthers (or melanistic leopards). Their work sought to find patterns in habitats and geographic locations for these variations of the normally spotted cats.  It is a misnomer to think that 'black panthers' are a separate species- in fact spotted females can give birth to 'black panthers' and spotted leopards in the same litter.  To learn more about the study and the results click on the link HERE

"When Lions Attack People", our newest Nat Geo Blog Post

Between December and January, over 80 cattle were killed lions in our study area.  The villagers have absorbed these devastating losses without killing any lions. In late January the conflict came to a boil with villagers following lion tracks which led to a confrontation. One villager was mauled by a young male lion. Click HERE to about the incident and our approach when lions attack people.

Artwork of the Pharoahs: Persian, Arabian or African leopard?

Photo of a leopard from the Hatshepsut's Temple. Photo provided by Filip Taterka

Photo of a leopard from the Hatshepsut's Temple. Photo provided by Filip Taterka

This week, colleagues studying Egyptology at the University in Poznań (Poland) and Université Paris-Sorbonne (France) have reached out with a question... are the leopards shown in the Ptolemaic Era artwork Africa or Persian?  To answer the question, we need to consider a few key pieces of information. First, with Egypt situated in at the confluence of ranges among three leopard subspecies- the African leopard, Arabian leopard and Persian leopard (also called the Anatolian or Caucasian leopard by some groups). Second, are there physical differences among these sub-species that may make identification possible? Third, what is the likelihood that Egyptian rulers would have captured these animals or received them from neighboring trade partners.

To address the first point, Ptolemaic Empire (around 300 b.c.) expanded across Northern Africa, the Middle East and parts of southern Turkey. This area included the historic range of all three subspecies- the African, Arabian and Persian leopard. Leopards historically only lived in the Nile River Valley and along the coast of the Red Sea. Today, only a small remnant population is thought to exist in Elba National Park in the Southeastern corner of Egypt. This population is connected to the leopard sub-species of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is likely, however, that these populations were never very high.  Same goes for the Arabian leopard that is found along the coastlines in the Middle East including the Arabian peninsula. Arabian leopards are still present in tiny remnant populations in Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia and possibly Israel. Populations here were also likely very low considering the arid habitat. Leopards across southwestern Asia live in a variety of habitats including mountains, forests and the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey.  It is possible that leopards may have come from any one of these locations.

Photo provided by Filip Taterka

Photo provided by Filip Taterka

Do they all look the same? Well, not too surprisingly, there are subtle differences among leopards across their range living in different habitats. For example, the Amur leopard inhabits the Russian Far-East and grows a thick, long fur coat to protect against the harsh winters. The Indochinese leopard generally keeps a short, sleek coat as not to overheat in the tropics. The Arabian leopard lives in marginal areas feeding on small mammals in the absence of large prey and therefore has a smaller body size by comparison.  Next the Persian leopards of today have slightly long fur similar to other subspecies in temperate environments.

The African leopard in Botswana

The African leopard in Botswana

After investigating this artwork, we see that the depictions show an large size leopard, that is nearly waist- height to the human figures, disqualifying the diminutive Arabian leopard. Further, there are no signs that these animals have (seasonally grown) thicker, longer fur as the temperate cats would likely have. The artist may not have included this feature. Lastly, the Ptolemaic Empire traded with the Nubians in sub-Saharan Africa, Minoans of Greece, factions in the Middle East and southwest Asia.  There are shrines depicting trade with the Nubians of sub-Saharan Africa and the Minoans of Ancient Greece.  One art piece in particular shows a person walking a small collared leopard next to another man walking a baboon. This would suggest that the Nubians may have traded wildlife to the Egyptians. Further research suggests that Nubians traded much of their wildlife including elephants, giraffes, etc. to Egyptians and European powers at different times. Combined with the known wildlife trading habits of the Nubians, I would suspect that the leopards present in the Hathor Shrine of the Dendera Temple, and Temple of Deir are actually the African subspecies.

Just in case there is any doubt, leopards were also called "abi shema" or Big Cat from the South!

Female leopard in Etosha National Park, Namibia

Female leopard in Etosha National Park, Namibia

Another question- are these leopards male or female?  Researcher Filip Taterka said, "If therefore the leopard in the Hathor Shire is female it would mean that it plays the role of Hathor herself. If, however, he is male, than perhaps he should be identified rather with the king, who happens to be compared to leopard in the moment of his wrath. " We suspect that they are males (60-70 cm shoulder height) because the figures have a more robust and stand at the relative height of male leopards compared to the human figures. These carvings occasionally show exaggerated sizes of animals, so we may be mislead by measuring relative size of animals in the carvings.

Lastly, we were curious about the lack of spots. Initially, we suspected that perhaps the paint had warn off over the years, but it appears that these pieces have been preserved quite well. Leopards and leopard skins in other pieces have spots- so perhaps this was a stylistic choice of the artist. Since the cat does resemble a lioness, but without a definitive tail tuft, this is unlikely. There are still many questions to investigate as part of the project. We wish our colleagues luck in learning as much as they can about these fascinating carvings!

New Nat Geo Blog: Using Tech to Protect Livestock and Lions

National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative has supported our work from the beginning! As our successes mount, so do the challenges for subsistence communities trying to live with lions at the edge of the Okavango Delta. In this recent blog post, Barbara Cozzens outlines our unique approach to sharing information with communities to help reduce conflict and protect livelihoods and lions.  Click HERE for the link!