Saturday, 3rd March 2017, Malawi: 24th February, 2018 marked another historical landmark when after many, many months of planning and extensive preparations, the first stage of the process of reintroducing lions in Liwonde National Park was completed. The first stage involved translocating two male lions from Majete Wildlife Reserve, to specially built bomas in Liwonde. They will remain in this enclosure for several weeks to enable the close monitoring of their wellbeing, adjustment, and bonding with two lionesses that will be translocated from South Africa in March, before they are all released in to the wider park. The lions have each been fitted with tracking collars to facilitate intensive daily monitoring.
This ground-breaking conservation initiative is being undertaken by African Parks, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the Dutch Government and the Lion Recovery Fund. African Parks will also be supplementing the populations in both Liwonde and Majete with the translocation of up to 12 additional lions over the coming months, to create a founder population so they can breed and their prides can grow.
Commenting on the initiative, Chris Badger – Managing Director, Central African Wilderness Safaris stated: “when we first visited the park in early 1987, one of the first sites we saw on the edge of the huge plain at Chinguni was a group of seven lionesses eyeing up a large group of waterbuck. Between then and around 1993, lions were regularly sighted and based on our observations, there were at least four distinct prides (and quite possibly more) centred around Chinguni, Mvuu, Mvera and Nafiulu Hills, and probably between 40-60 lion in the park. 80% of our guests in the early days at Mvuu saw lion. From the early 1990s, poaching began to take its toll and by about 1997, the only lions we ever saw were solitary individuals – usually young males that we presumed had wandered in from Mangochi Forest Reserve and perhaps Mozambique. With increased human population growth in the areas to the east of the park, this avenue too slowly became cut off and sadly no lions have been seen now for a few years. This initiative from African Parks is hugely exciting and we look forward to welcoming the lion back to this prime habitat.”
The last lion was seen in Liwonde National Park over four years ago, and an even longer period of time has passed since the park was home to a breeding population. Many years of human-wildlife conflict and rampant poaching utilizing wire snares severely reduced the resident predator populations, eventually eradicating them. African Parks assumed management of Liwonde in partnership with the DNPW in 2015, and since then has completely overhauled law enforcement to secure the park. They have constructed a robust perimeter fence enclosing the entire park, established rigorous ranger patrols, and worked extensively with local communities, making significant progress in revitalising habitat and wildlife populations through the reduction of poaching and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict. As we commemorate UN World Wildlife Day today, centred on the theme ‘Big cats – predators under threat,’ Malawi’s lion translocation serves as an outstanding example of the conservation measures being taken to secure a future for Africa’s most iconic cat.
Source: African Parks
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Photo credits: African Parks
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