The Gorongosa Lion Project: Back in the Field

April 3, 2013

The Gorongosa Lion Project team hits the ground again this April and we have good news to share! Only a few weeks ago one of our local prides emerged with 5 new cubs.  We are obviously thrilled and can't help but be so very proud of these young mothers.  This pride was the first I ever laid eyes on in Gorongosa and they are a memorable team of lionesses we've had the pleasure of observing playfully hunt on the floodplain by night, slumber under thickets by day and eventually mate with a son of “Tripod” - our resilient three-legged lioness who is now 10+ years old. 

 

Our goal in our 1st week back is to satellite-collar the pride so we can closely monitor their progress over the next few years.  Once collared we will receive exact location data on their movements from hour-to-hour and be able to closely coordinate with anti-snaring/poaching teams while we also gain deeper insight into the ecology of the Park's lions – where they go from season-to-season especially in remote sectors, how they respond to fire, drought and flooding, and importantly how they interact with the boundary of the Park.

 

Photo: Paola Bouley and Rui Branco

 

More exciting news is that for the month of April, the Lion Project will be participating in the 2013 Gorongosa Biodiversity Survey taking place on the Cheringoma Plateau – an unexplored and biologically diverse sector of the Park.  I'll be leading the large mammal survey and working day-and-night alongside our wildlife veterinarian – Rui Branco - to identify and collar lions and document leopard and hyena. As part of an expert team of entomologists, herpetologists, botanists, ornithologists, and mammalogists and I wish I could say we will be posting daily updates about discoveries– but we'll be deep in the bush with no internet at all for 3 weeks.  Stay tuned for updates when we return to camp in May!

Photo: Paola Bouley with E.O. Wilson in Gorongosa

 

Overall, our work-load this year will be intense and the stakes are simply high.  Over the past few months a number of studies have been published highlighting just how threatened lion populations are across Africa.  A mere 25-30,000 lions remain in the wild – down from 250,000 only 120 years ago - and one study released in March estimates that 50% of remaining populations could disappear in just 40 years unless urgent action is taken.

 

Mozambique is no exception, without urgent action lions face a bleak future here.  But the Gorongosa Restoration Project is doing our part to hold the line against extinction and create a refuge for wildlife and particularly lions.

 

People ask me all the time what they can do to help save Gorongosa's lions.  I'd say the single most important thing an individual can do is visit the Park, experience the beauty of this wilderness and its lions for yourself and meet the communities and Park staff on the front-lines of conservation.  The income generated from eco-tourism that feeds back into local communities that have to live with lions daily is the single best way to make the case for their protection right now. 

Whether lions survive over the long-term here – across Africa, in Mozambique and in GNP - really depends on what we can collectively achieve in the next decade.   We all need to do our part.  Monitoring, anti-snaring/poaching, community education and co-existence and conflict-mitigation training, and building a sustainable, tourism-based local economy.  The Park will be doing all this and more.  We  are optimistic, innovative and will be working harder than ever before.  Discover how you can personally help!

 

Thank you to Zoo Boise Conservation Fund, Princeton University, USAID Mozambique and the Gorongosa Restoration Project for your support of the Lion Project!

 

For more on the Gorongosa Restoration Project and our lion recovery efforts:

 

By Paola Bouley

Senior Researcher & Princeton Univ. Research Associate (Pringle Lab)

 

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Bush Diaries