Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lost Lions Found in Northwest Ethiopia Raise Hopes That Big Cats Survive in Sudan

Posted by David Maxwell Braun of National Geographic Society in Cat Watch on February 1, 2016

Lions are living in a remote national park in Ethiopia, Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation said in a statement today.

The confirmation was made by an expedition into the Alatash National Park in northwest Ethiopia, on the Ethiopia-Sudan border. Supported by the Washington, D.C.-based charity, the expedition in November last year was led by Hans Bauer, a lion conservationist working for Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).

Bauer and his team found original and undisputable evidence of lions in the region, successfully obtaining camera trap images of lions and identifying lion tracks, Born Free said in its statement. The team also concluded that lions were likely to exist in the larger, adjacent Dinder National Park across the border in Sudan.

“Alatash is a huge region that very few people have visited,” the statement said. “Though lions are thought to have been present there for centuries, and locals knew of their existence in the area, the international community was unaware. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) only considered Alatash a ‘possible range’ for the species.”
Camera trap photo of lion in northwest Ethiopia courtesy of Born Free USA.
Camera trap photo of lion in northwest Ethiopia courtesy of Born Free USA.
WildCRU’s Bauer, the expedition leader, said: Lions are definitely present in Alatash National Park and in Dinder National Park. Lion presence in Alatash has not previously been confirmed in meetings at the national or international level.

“Considering the relative ease with which lion signs were observed, it is likely that they are resident throughout Alatash and Dinder. Due to limited surface water, prey densities are low and lion densities are likely to be low. We may conservatively assume a density in the range of one to two lions per 100 km2 [38 square miles]. On a total surface area of about 10,000 km2 [about 4,000 square miles], this would mean a population of 100-200 lions for the entire ecosystem, of which 27-54 would be in Alatash,” he said.

“The confirmation that lions persist in this area is exciting news,” said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation. Lions were thought to be locally extinct in Sudan, so the new findings are encouraging, he added. “Now that the expedition is complete, the next step is to communicate with the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan and look at the needs for conservation in the area so that this previously undiscovered lion stronghold can be protected.”

See the expedition report here

Born Free USA leads campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic pets, trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Its mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. The charity brings to North America the message of compassionate conservation, the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation have just announced its Year of the Lion 2016 initiative and the 50th anniversary of the film, Born Free.


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