Welcome to ALERT’s lion rehabilitation and release into the wild program
ALERT recognizes that programs directed towards protecting habitat for the remaining wild lions must continue to be the mainstay of conservation efforts and that new multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches are necessary to achieve this.
Given the speed of decline in lion populations (43% between 1993 and 2014) and the IUCN’s Red List classification assessment that “… the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible”, we also recognize that ex-situ management can compliment those efforts.
IUCN technical guidelines include that ex-situ management “may be critical in preventing species extinction when wild population decline is steep and the chance of sufficiently rapid reduction of primary threats is slim or uncertain or has been inadequately successful to date”.
With the lion population facing a threat that now exceeds those of rhino and elephant (in terms of the percentage of the population disappearing), the criteria that the IUCN technical guidelines provide may now be applicable and the model that ALERT has worked on to put lion back into the wild may apply.
There are, however, many complications and potential dangers inherent in reintroducing lions back into the wild, most notably the likely conflicts with humans and their livestock following release; this may be especially true of captive-bred lions that might not have learned human avoidance characteristics of some wild lions.
There are several reasons that have been put forward to explain why past predator releases have had limited success:
- the animals were not given pre-release training
- their dependence on humans was not curtailed
- they were released as individuals with no natural social system
- and that they had no experience of predatory or competitive species.
The African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program seeks to find a solution to these problems by using a staged program.
- Lions are released as a constructed pride into a large fenced and managed wild area. The intention is that a socially stable and self-sustainable pride is formed within which cubs are born and raised without human contact
- ALERT currently has 2 prides at this phase: the Dambwa Pride (Livingstone, Zambia) and the Ngamo Pride (Antelope Park, Zimbabwe)
- Cubs born into these prides are candidates for the reintroduction into the wild phase as they are not habituated or reliant on humans
Read more about the Release Phase
In the release phase of the programme a pride of Non-related individual lions that have developed hunting behaviour and show independence are released into a large fenced and managed wild environment with wildlife. Scavenge feeds are also given.
These animals are never handled again. This group then forms a stable and self-sustaining pride and produce cubs that will never be handled.
The cubs which now display all of the characteristics of wild lions (human avoidance, hunting success, pride cohesiveness) are destined for a release in areas needing lions.
Two release areas are currently operational and are home to our two prides- The Ngamo Pride (Gweru, Zimbabwe) and the Dambwa Pride (Livingstone, Zambia)