Lion Research in Chizarira National Park
The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) began lion research in Chizarira in 2017. The research aimed at understanding the population ecology of lions in the park and surrounds (numbers, population structure, pride dynamics, movements, associations between prides, interactions with other large predators, among other aspects).
It also tied in with human-wildlife conflict mitigation work carried out by ALERT with the neighbouring rural communities in the surrounding areas.
Lions are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Whilst many of the large National Parks in Zimbabwe hold healthy populations of lions, no empirical data was available for Chizarira National Park, especially on the population dynamics of this species. This research aimed to address these large research gaps.
From 2017-2020, research using telemetry, spoor transects and calls up surveys showed that the population in Chizarira is small, with an estimated 4–5 prides totalling an estimated 40 individuals over the age of one year and with overlapping home ranges. ALERT successfully collared four lions since signing the Memorandum of Understanding on the 15th of January 2017 to conduct research in Chizarira- two males and two females.
The two females lions 2170 and 2171 are currently being monitored and their movements tracked. Lion 2170 is said to be part of the Mabola (area within the park) pride which contains 11 lions and lion 2171 is a member of the Kaswswi (area within the park) pride which holds 9 lions, lion 2170 was collared in May 2018 and Lion 2171 was collared in July 2019.
The first collared male has made history by travelling with two uncollared male siblings moved from Chizarira National Park to Hwange National Park – a straight line distance if over 200kms through heavily populated Communal Land. Once inside Hwange, the collared male attempted to pull down a buffalo bull and was fatally gored.
This is of scientific importance as the presence of corridors between Protected Areas is also being investigated through the research work being carried out.