As the lion saver, this Nelson student is in Vogue

December 7, 2009

Has caring for the planet become ultra-fashionable? Perhaps. The November 2009 issue of Vogue magazine profiles Nelson Institute doctoral student Leela Hazzah and her efforts to protect African lions, whose numbers have declined more than 85 percent in the past 20 years. An excerpt: "On a pleasant afternoon in late July it is winter in Kenya, which means chilly mornings before the clouds are burned off by lazy sunshine. Leela is presiding over a group of Maasai tribesmen sitting at a table in an open hut at her camp on the Eselenkei conservation area, close to the Porini eco-tourism and safari camp and Amboseli National Park. The region is in the grip of its worst drought in decades. Though giraffe and antelope abound, cattle, the Maasai's chief source of livelihood, are scarce, having died or been led far away, which means that any alternative employment for tribesmen is more than welcome. Leela understands that the best way forward in conservation is to involve the local community, get people invested in the outcome, and turn it to their economic advantage. She is adamant that the Maasai colleagues she has hired be trained to run the Lion Guardians program once she moves on. 'It's a Maasai-run project,' she says. 'We will leave it in their hands. That's how it will be sustainable.'"