Every day is an important day for lion conservation, but today, on 10 August, we invite you to join us in acknowledging the importance of lions in Africa and worldwide. Often referred to as the “King of the Beasts” this magnificent feline’s numbers are in grave danger, now more than ever. Thanks to collaborations such as the Lionscape Coalition, of which Wilderness Safaris is a founder member, the conservation of this iconic species has gained momentum and necessary urgency.
Joining Forces for Lions
Did you know that Africa’s lion population has almost halved in the past 25 years? Habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal wildlife trade, bushmeat poaching and human-lion conflict continue to threaten lions across Africa, – which are now classified by the IUCN as Vulnerable, with the West African subspecies Critically Endangered. Yet lions are a resilient species and a turnaround is still possible if these key issues are addressed. The Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) was established by the Wildlife Conservation Network in 2017, in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, to reverse this sharp decline in lion populations.
Lion Recovery: The Future of Africa’s Lions
Watch Wilderness Safaris Group Sustainability Manager Dr Neil Midlane in conversation with Dr Peter Lindsey, Director of the Lion Recovery Fund, as they discuss the challenges lions face, as well as the LRF’s ambitious aim to double the African lion population by 2050.
Lion Recovery Fund and Lionscape Coalition: Making a Difference
This #WorldLionDay marks the three-year anniversary of the Lion Recovery Fund. In this time, the LRF has removed 39 914 snares from lion habitat, de-snared 28 lions, trained 639 rangers across Africa, and much more. We are proud to be part of this impact through our membership of the Lionscape Coalition – an innovative initiative that has seen commercial competitors come together to help secure a future for Africa’s lions and the restoration of their landscapes.
Namibia Desert Lion Conservation Project
Wilderness Safaris’ non-profit partner, the Wilderness Wildlife Trust (WWT), allocated additional funds towards the Namibia Desert Lion Conservation Project in March 2020, to ensure the continuity of the crucial work required in the ongoing mitigation of human-lion conflict in the north-west of the country. Channelled through the Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO) Trust, the funds have been used to procure 10 early-warning GPS and satellite collars, as well as two Remote Alert Units.
Read more here.
Panthera and the Kafue Lion Project, Established in 2010
For the last 10 years Wilderness Safaris, in conjunction with Panthera and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), have supported the conservation of the lion population in Kafue National Park, Zambia. “It’s one of the biggest national parks in Africa, and potentially a real stronghold for lions, yet at the time we knew next to nothing about the population there. We had concerns that numbers were declining and Panthera was interested because of the potential of the area for lions”.
Wilderness Safaris Group Sustainability Manager, Dr Neil Midlane spent many years researching lions in the Kafue, and says his connection to this species is twofold. “There is something sublime about big cats that has always fascinated me, and drawn me to them. I think it’s got to do with the way they move, the supreme confidence they exude and the way they can change so suddenly from a lethargic lump of fur to a super-alert, consummate predator in seconds.
On top of that, from a conservation perspective they play so many important roles. As apex predators they have a significant influence on maintaining the functionality of the ecosystems where they persist. Their charisma makes them a key species for wildlife tourism, which in turn is a critical element of sustainably funding conservation areas. Lastly, they perform an umbrella species function; if, for example, a lion population in a given area is growing, or at ecological carrying capacity, it indicates that the prey base is secure, which in turn indicates a protected, functioning ecosystem. Conserving big cats means conserving entire ecosystems. Not much could be more important than that.
Panthera is now implementing what they call the “halo” approach, where extra patrol and snare sweeping efforts are implemented around identified lion prides and cheetah and wild dog dens to keep them safe during vulnerable periods.
Watch the below video of Neil for more information about Panthera’s conservation efforts in Kafue National Park:
In addition to these conservation partnerships we would like to share a few other lion highlights.
Protecting Hwange’s Lions
In the south-east corner of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe lie our Makalolo and Linkwasha concessions – truly wild areas that provide superlative year-round game viewing. With over 100 mammal species, Hwange has some of the highest mammal diversity of any national park.
Read about our anti-poaching efforts aimed at removing snares within the park and how this is a critical intervention for lions.
Desert Survivors – The Extraordinary Lions of the Skeleton Coast
Thanks to our presence in the Skeleton Coast area for over 20 years, and our partnership with the communities that live here, both lion numbers and people have benefited from tourism. But with increasing lion numbers comes the challenge of increased human-lion conflict. Read more about Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp and our Desert Lion Conservation Project forces here.
A Busanga Plains Lion Update
“The Busanga Plains, situated in the far northern section of Kafue National Park in Zambia, is famous for its lions – and other exceptional predator viewing. After my visit to Shumba Camp in June 2019, I can readily confirm that it continues to rank as one of the best places in Africa, not only to view lions, but also photograph them. With open floodplains, numerous water channels and early morning mist, the backdrop sets the scene for an incredible spectacle”. Read this wonderful recap of a recent safari by Anton Kruger here.
Tiny Lion Cubs – Special Sighting for First Magashi Guests
“Our group sat listening in silence. We could make out the faint sound of a lioness’ contact call (a faint moan) and began following the sound. Not long after, we spotted a male lion walking into the bush, and then, much to our surprise, a lioness and her four little cubs appeared”.
Magashi Senior Guide Adriaan Mulder recounts one of his earliest lion encounters with the pride on our concession in Akagera National Park here.
The Story of Lekhubu – A Kalahari Black-Maned Lion
Kalahari Plains Head Guide Keoikantse Paul Sefo follows the story of a nomad male lion and the journey that took him from a shy, elusive lion to his current rule as dominant male of the Plains Pride. Read this inspiring story from Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve here.
Lions in the Kalahari and at Mombo
With Wilderness Safaris’ announcement of its further commitment to the Lionscape Coalition in February 2020, we are proud to share this felid-themed safari album, photographed by Neuman Vasco on his journeys between Kalahari Plains Camp and the Mombo Wildlife Area, Botswana. Take a look at his great photos here.
An Extraordinary Encounter with the Lions of Vumbura
Joe Andrews, guest at Vumbura Plains Camp, Botswana, shared this beautiful story of a lion and her cub wading through a channel – a remarkable moment!
“During a recent stay at Vumbura Plains we were very fortunate to spend an afternoon with a lioness and her cubs and watched them cross several large water channels. Vumbura Plains is located in the heart of the Okavango Delta and at this time in March the area is quite wet with the start of the annual inundation. It’s always special to see lions on safari. But on this day we witnessed something extraordinary”.
Read the full story here.
Ten Young Lions: 24 Extraordinary Hours at Qorokwe
“It is first light; it is cold and we are approaching Sunset Pan at Qorokwe in the Okavango Delta. Something is moving in the grass. It is a lion. Make that ten lions. It is the first time that we have seen this group of young lions since February. It is a very unusual group of lions. They all are between two and three years old. There are no adult lions with them”.
Read the full story by Dr Christiaan Winterbach, and enjoy his selection of amazing photos here .
Let’s plan your next journey
When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.