How I saved big cats by introducing ‘magic dogs’

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John Cairns

Amy Dickman has had a number of narrow escapes during her years working with big cats, but her closest shave came when tackling lion-killing warriors.

It was late evening and Amy Dickman was walking through the bush to a household she suspected was celebrating a lion kill.

“It was dark but I suddenly got the feeling I was being watched,” Dickman recalls. “I was concerned that a big cat might be lying in wait.”

For a brief moment the moon appeared from behind the clouds, illuminating the landscape.

“I realised I was surrounded by young men carrying spears. Then it went dark again. I was terrified,” she says.

This was Dickman’s first encounter with warriors from the Barabaig – a community with a history of killing non-Barabaig people and still widely feared.

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Fenrick Msigwa

A conservation biologist from Devon, Dickman has been running a big carnivores project in Ruaha, southern Tanzania, since 2009.

An estimated 3,000 lions, one in 10 of the world’s wild population, live in the remote region – a massive unfenced national park, bounded by tribal lands.

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