Conservation Series: Nanai - A Samburu Legend

The inaugural piece within my Conservation Series is in partnership with Ewaso Lions - an organization that is dedicated to conserving lions and other large carnivores by promoting coexistence between people and wildlife. They are an African conservation organization and proud partner of Wildlife Conservation Network

For this project, I chose to paint Nanai - a beloved lioness that recently passed in May of 2023. The auction of this piece will be held from 12/10 at 12:00am  through 12/31 at 11:59pm EST. You can participate by going here.

Art Auction benefitting Ewaso Lions

Nanai was a very well-known lioness that was born about 15 years ago in Samburu. From a tiny cub who seemingly was always struggling to keep up, she grew into one of the most efficient hunters and a true matriarch of her pride in Samburu. She gave birth to many cubs, three of whom set off on their own a month before she passed.

Nanai drew the love and attention of all of Ewaso Lions, and when she developed cancer, the organization did all they could to try to save her...even conducting surgery under a tree in Samburu to remove a cancerous growth in her mouth this past January (2023). Although the surgery was a success, the cancer returned in May and came back so aggressively, that she had lost body condition considerably and struggled to move. Ewaso determined that humanely euthanizing her was the right thing to do. 

Although Nanai is no longer with us, her legacy is stronger than ever.  Nanai lived an amazing life and continued the legacy her mother Nashipai left. Ewaso credits her as teaching them so much about the lions of the region. She had a huge impact on the landscape and the lion population, and the Ewaso team are all so grateful for every moment they had with her.  

It is my true honor to have painted Nanai, and my greatest hope is that my painting raises money for Ewaso Lions so that they can continue doing the extraordinary work that they do. I've come to know their founder and executive director, Shivani Bhalla, over the last several years through Wildlife Conservation Network. She and her team are incredibly inspiring. They are passionate about their work and they have bridged gaps and built strong bonds within their communities to save and protect lions, while also protecting herders interests. 

More about Lion Conservation Status (from Ewaso Lion's website):

The African lion population has disappeared from 92% of their historical range*. It is estimated that there are between 20,000 to 30,000 lions remaining across the continent – down from perhaps 200,000 lions a hundred years ago. In Kenya, the national population now numbers less than 2,500 individuals.

The reduction in lion numbers in Kenya is primarily due to habitat loss and conflict with humans, typically when lions kill people’s livestock. More recent threats now include the development of large scale infrastructure projects, disease outbreaks and climate change leading to loss of prey.

Lions and other large carnivores are wide-ranging species, and designated protected areas are often not large enough to ensure their long-term survival. It is crucial, therefore, that conservation of these species, as well as their prey, is addressed throughout the landscape, which not only incorporates protected areas, but also the surrounding areas where local people live. Beyond this, the sense of ownership over wildlife, and their story and place within our landscape as Africans must be reclaimed.

Ewaso Lions was formed to ensure a future for lions and other large carnivores in northern Kenya. Ewaso Lions uses scientific research and community-based outreach programmes to promote coexistence between lions and people.

(*Stolton, S. and Dudley, N. 2019. The New Lion Economy. Unlocking the value of lions and their landscapes, Equilibrium Research, Bristol, UK.)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.