August 3 2015

ALERT'S in situ lion conservation efforts

“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions” Karen Blixen

Lions have evolved social and reproductive behaviours that require space, the greatest threat to the species therefore being an increasing human population and the subsequent conflict with lions as a result of land conversion and prey base depletion to meet the needs of people.  Humans however have induced additional threats by introducing disease, unsustainable trophy hunting practices, and the impacts of climate change to lions, whose populations continue to decline.  African lion populations might still exist in theoretical numbers to support their conservation status as “vulnerable” by IUCN standards, but analyses of population structure, geographical fragmentation, risks from inbreeding depression and subsequent loss of evolutionary potential, and probable/actual disease threats, provide many additional causes for concern for the long-term viability of this species.

The conservation of wild lions in their natural range must remain at the core of efforts to ensure viable populations of lions are maintained as an integral part of functional ecosystems.  To that end, ALERT engages in and supports programmes to: protect and restore habitat for lions, assess and monitor population size and health, mitigate the conflict between lions and communities, improve our understanding of lion ecology and behaviour, and assist wildlife authorities to develop and implement appropriate policies to conserve lions.  Our responsible development approach also ensures that our lion conservation efforts extend beyond the species itself to incorporate the inter-related social and economic issues as well.


Matusadona Lion Project (MLP), Zimbabwe

Since its commencement in 2014, the MLP aims to determine the population status and ecology of lions in Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park. The last census in 2005 suggested that just 28 individuals remained, down from nearly 90 in 1998, raising concerns over the population’s long-term viability.  The MLP is collecting data on individual lions, pride structure and distribution, as well trying to understand the environmental and human-induced pressures facing Matusadona’s lions.  This project directly contributes to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s conservation and management plans for this apex predator. 

Zambezi Lion Project, (ZLP), Zimbabwe

Since 2013 ZLP has been seeking to determine the habitat occupancy of lions in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park.  With no previous studies on lion populations in this location having been undertaken, ZLP is aiming to produce baseline data to contribute to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s conservation and management plans for the species.

Mitigating Human / Lion Conflict, Zimbabwe

This program is aiming to evaluate a conflict mitigation strategy, that has been successful elsewhere in Africa, in a high conflict zone in western Zimbabwe.  Using motion sensor camera traps, footage is gathered of those lions approaching lit bomas. Their movements and behaviour whilst approaching and remaining in the vicinity of the bomas is being studied and analysed to determine the extent to which the flashing lights directly impact and deter predatory behaviour.

National Lion Action Plan, Malawi

A workshop for the southern and eastern regions of Africa, organized by the IUCN in 2006, produced a regional strategy for lion conservation, that also urged lion range states to domesticate it by developing national lion conservation strategies.  Many countries within the region are yet to produce national strategies, including Malawi.  Following a preliminary meeting with the Malawian Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) ALERT started working with DNPW to create a national lion action plan for the country.  A final draft of the Plan has been submitted to DNPW for review, who have requested one final stakeholder meeting to finalize it.  We are currently seeking funds to finance that meeting. 

Restoration of Ruvubu & Rusizi National Parks, Burundi

The small country of Burundi has long had a strong relationship with the lion; its image appearing on the nation's coat of arms.  Records of the last lion of Burundi however are lost in history, although rumours of the occasional feline visit from neighbouring Tanzania exist.  In July 2012 ALERT signed an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Burundi to jointly manage these national parks using ALERT's responsible development principles.  Under Burundian law the next stage is to prepare a Convention of Implementation.  Throughout 2013 and 2014 meetings have been held in Burundi, Zambia and Zimbabwe towards completion of this document.  A final draft has been submitted in 2015 to the Government for approval.

Anti-Poaching, Guinea, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe

ALERT has assisted Chengeta Wildlife in implementing a training programme for anti-poaching units covering locations in Guinea, Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Additionally ALERT operates anti-poaching efforts in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Awash National Park Lion Project, Ethiopia

There is limited information on the status and distribution of lions in Ethiopia.  Following discussions held during 2012, ALERT was asked in 2013 to assist the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority to implement their National Lion Action Plan that was developed in 2009.  ALERT proposes to establish a research station to meet the identified action plan targets for this designated lion conservation unit, before expanding to other locations.  We are currently seeking funding to commence this programme.


ALERT financially supports the Bumi Hills and Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Units, both operating in Zimbabwe.


Large Carnivore Research, Northern Namibia:  ALERT has provided funding to support the work of the Large Carnivore Research Project that studies the effects of competition for resources and human-wildlife conflict on the densities and distribution of lions exposed to an anthrax-centred food web in northern Namibia.

Predation risk; a possible factor in equitable nutrient recycling, Zambia:  ALERT is pleased to have financially support the work of Wigganson Matandiko who is investigating whether there is a significant difference in the concentration of fecal E.coli colony cultures in areas of high predation risk verses low predation risk areas.

Carnivore Conservation, Kusungu National Park, Malawi:  ALERT provided research equipment to Carnivore Conservation Malawi that was seeking to assess wildlife populations with particular reference to the maintenance of large predators such as lion, hyena, leopard and wild dog; all of which are still present in low numbers in Kasungu NP.

Assessing Lion Disease Status in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe:  Finance was provided to AWARE who were conducting disease testing of lions within the Park.

ALERT’s partners in these programs include:

·        Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority

·        Zambia Wildlife Authority

·        Malawi Department of National Parks & Wildlife

·        Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority

·        Burundi Ministry of Water, Environment, Land Management & Urban Planning

·        Burundi Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Posts and Tourism

·        Coventry University

·        Chengeta Wildlife

·        European Union

·        United Nations Office for Project Services

·        Antelope Park

·        Lion Encounter

·        African Impact


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Stay tuned for our next post to find out about ALERT’s efforts in Education as part of a responsible development approach to lion conservation.


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