In just two decades Africa’s lion population has dropped by 40%. In Kenya, only 2000 lions still hunt and roam free. Shrinking habitat and conflicts with people are responsible for their precipitous decline.

When lions attack livestock, the retribution can be swift and brutal. The herders often poison the cattle they lost, hoping predators will return to feast on their kill. They also kill off Kenya’s critical endangered vultures, who are nature’s clean-up crew.

In this crisis, Kenya’s private conservancies are a critical refuge, but most have a complicated relationship with lions. With the drop off in tourism, many rely on cattle ranching to make ends meet.

Along the shores of Lake Elementeita in the Soysambu Conservancy, a small band of lions is staging a comeback. Their leader, Valentine, came uninvited to this fenced off reserve, but now everyone wants her to stay, as long as she keeps her paws off the cows. It’s a story that reveals the future of Kenya’s vulnerable lions.

Web page by Belva Digital. Photos by Simon Thomsett & Andrew Tkach.