CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – Leela Hazzah's nonprofit turns Maasai warriors -- who have a tradition of killing lions -- into lion protectors. Their ultimate goal is to reduce lion killings.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – "Sixty years ago, there were probably half a million lions in Africa," Hazzah said. "Today, there are less than 30,000 lions in all of Africa."
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – Hazzah's organization employs 65 Lion Guardians throughout East Africa.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – Hazzah spent a year living among the Maasai to understand their relationship with lions and why they were killing them. "Livestock are the core of their culture. ... It's their main source of livelihood," Hazzah said. "When they lose their cows, they don't have anything left. So they retaliate, and they kill lions."
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – Hazzah realized that Maasai warriors, the leaders and protectors in their community, would be the best ambassadors for lions. She began teaching them the benefits of protecting lions, with an emphasis on preserving their culture. In turn, the lessons began rippling through the entire tribe.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – Many Maasai warriors come to Lion Guardians illiterate, having never attended school. Hazzah and her team teach each one how to read and write.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – The guardians also learn about "their" lions. They keep data on the lions' movements and population changes as part of their job.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – If a guardian hears about a lion hunt, he intervenes. He helps the individuals understand the importance of keeping lions alive, including that lions draw tourists to the area, which provides jobs.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – For Hazzah, watching the transformation of young Maasai warriors has been one of the most rewarding parts of her efforts.
CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah – "I know we're making a difference," Hazzah said. "When I first moved here, I never heard lions roaring. But now I hear lions roaring all the time."