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Re-release programmes the answer for Africa’s dwindling lion population

Categories: HEADLINES, Animal Welfare
Walk with these magnificent animals and learn about them.

In the past two years 18 of Africa’s lion sub-populations were declared lost out of 86 identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2006.  It is arguable that some of these may have already been lost and were only assumed to exist at the IUCN lion workshops of 2005/6.

However, many of the remaining lion populations have shown continued declines and drastic measures may have to be taken in the next decade to ensure their survival. Re-introduction programmes will become increasingly important in the fight to save Africa’s most potent beast.

David Youldon from Lion Encounter says, “Lion populations are becoming increasingly fragmented within reserves that are closed to natural migration. Natural re-colonisation was previously possible but the opportunities for this are now greatly reduced or non-existent.”

Re-introduction is becoming increasingly used as an intervention for lion conservation and has well-practiced techniques which have been used at over thirty South African sites where the lions have been re-introduced. Methods used in South Africa have also been adopted in other countries.  Lion Encounter operates the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Programme on behalf of the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust. This programme incorporates the Lion Walk which allows guests to walk with these magnificent animals and learn about them in the safety of experienced guides and lion handlers.

Findings offer encouraging results
In 2010, the programme released the Ngamo pride which consisted of a male, six females of captive origin and five cubs which were born to the pride after release in central Zimbabwe. Since then a dedicated research team which compares their behaviour to that of wild prides has monitored the pride daily. The pride’s key success indicators are whether they are self-sustaining, socially stable and able to reproduce. Since 2010 the findings have been encouraging and in line with their wild cousins.

The Ngamo pride kills on average every 2.06 days. The average for wild lions is between 1.6 to 2.6 days. Wild prides consume around 5kg to 7kg of meat per lion per day. The Ngamos consume an average of 6.42kg per lion per day. Youldon said, “These findings suggest that contrary to perceptions, captive origin lions that have undergone pre-release training are capable of sustaining themselves in a natural setting given the opportunity to do so.” The team’s data also shows social stability in the pride although, as expected, reproductive levels in their first litter were low. 

To support efforts in securing remnant wild lion populations, secure habitat for lions, enable reintroduction to suitable areas as well as a host of other associated conservation and community development programs, please visit http://www.lionalert.org.

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