SUST prof Julian Kerbis Peterhans recently returned from 10 days in Kenya where he presented two papers and a video during the first-ever conference on “African Large Carnivores: Impacts on Ecosystems and Human Interactions.” The event was held at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
Kerbis Peterhans’ first presentation discussed his recently co-published, multi-authored paper in the esteemed conservation journal Oryx: “The Potential Distribution of the Vulnerable African Lion in the Face of Changing Global Climate.” This paper predicts that, under three differing emissions scenarios, large areas of southern Africa and west Africa will become far less suitable for lions over the next four decades. Further, climate change will have major impacts on their prey base even in the heart of lion distribution (eastern Africa), in particular the well-known prey migratory routes which are impacted by temperature and rainfall. Also, it is recognized that during times of drought, lions are more prone to attack livestock, a situation leading to their demise; this impact will be exacerbated by climate change.
Kerbis Peterhans’ second presentation summarized his earlier work (with colleague Tom Gnoske of the Field Museum in Chicago) on the causes of man-eating behavior among lions, with reference to the infamous “Man-eating Lions of Tsavo” that have been showcased at the Field Museum since 1925. Finally, Kerbis Peterhans concluded with a screening of Bill Kurtis’ documentary footage from his and Gnoske’s discovery of an active lion’s den in the Kyambura Gorge of western Uganda. This was of interest to the audience as part of the symposium addressed the behavior and diversity of lions and large carnivores in the past. Caves are areas where lions and early peoples may have had long standing conflicts and where both species operated and were more likely to have been preserved as fossils.
Kerbis Peterhans then visited longtime colleague Dr. Tom Butynski, who is running conservation, wildlife and sustainability activities at the Lolldaiga Group Ranch on the Laikipia Plateau of Kenya. Butynski is spearheading efforts to coordinate efforts in livestock husbandry, scientific research and ecotourism. He and Kerbis Peterhans discussed the prospect of a Sustainability Studies field program in the future at this fascinating location.
As a professor of natural science and sustainability studies in RU’s College of Professional Studies and an adjunct curator of mammals at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Kerbis Peterhans has long conducted scientific and conservation research in central Africa. He spent the 2012-13 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar at Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda, eastern Africa), one of the premier sub-Saharan academic institutions.
Kerbis Peterhans engaged in training African students in biodiversity survey techniques, as well as documenting the biodiversity of mid-elevation forest ecoystems in Uganda. This project followed on the heels of a five-year award from the MacArthur Foundation in the mid-1990s, when Kerbis Peterhans contributed to a program to train over 60 African students in similar techniques in Ugandan National Parks.