I bet that when you think of a species on the brink of extinction, you probably don’t think of the African lion. But for the last two decades the lion has been quietly sliding closer to extinction. Africa has lost half of its wild population in the last 25 years.
A new knowledge hub was recently launched by my teammates at the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), under the auspices of the Cat Specialist Group (CSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission. It plans to accurately quantify numbers and population trends of the African lion, and document its presence or absence across its range.
There is uncertainty as to how many lion remain and where they occur on the continent. Existing information is dispersed among various institutions, preventing optimal conservation impact for the species. In October 2018, the EWT and CSG embarked on an exciting new project to address this issue and develop the African Lion Database.
The database is hosted by the EWT on behalf of the broader conservation community and will be used to compile, analyse, and store data on lion distribution, abundance, and population trends, and support the continuous assessment of the status of lions across the continent. The more we know about a species, the better we can protect it, by guiding conservation action and funding to where they are most needed.
This project has been collating existing data from reserve management, researchers, existing data platforms and governments for the last six months and I’m excited to say we can already share some new insights into the distribution of lions.
Central African Wilderness Safaris recently confirmed the presence of a resident male lion in Nyika National Park, Malawi. The EWT received photos to confirm his presence.
Another exciting record comes from Angola’s Luando Special Reserve, where a sighting of a male and female with cubs was recorded in the Luando Special Reserve. This is the first female and cubs sighting in more than a decade in this area and this information offers hope that lions may be re-establishing a presence where they were thought to have disappeared.
A recent Born Free expedition recorded a small pride of lions for the first time at Mpem and Djim National Park in southern Cameroon – again, in an area where lions were considered to be locally extinct. These records provide hope that lion populations are beginning to establish and increase in areas where hope was lost.
This project is made possible with the financial support of the Lion Recovery Fund and National Geographic Society.
’Til next time
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