Lions re-locate to Malawi

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Lions in boma in Liwonde National Park Image © Frank Weitzer.

It has been almost a month now since twelve lions were transported from South Africa to Malawi.

If you – like many people – wonder why lions were transported then the reason is because Malawi had none. Yes, strange as it might seem, this African country that abuts South Africa had no lions left on its lands.

A century ago, Africa contained more than 200,000 wild lions but in recent decades, habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and diminished prey have caused Africa’s lion population to plummet to just fewer than 20,000, eradicating them from up to 90% of their historical range. Lions are now extinct in 26 African countries and Malawi was one of those countries.

Cheetahs were also extinct but some were introduced in 2017. This year it has been the year of the lion.

African Parks partnered with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the Dutch Government, the Lion Recovery Fund and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to translocate twelve lions from South Africa to Malawi.

A month ago today, the completion of a series of lion translocations from South Africa to Malawi was announced. Wild lions have been reintroduced to Liwonde National Park and seven lions from South Africa joined two males brought from Majete Wildlife Reserve in March.

This translocation also included introducing an additional five lions into Majete from South Africa to enhance genetic diversity of the founder population in the reserve, where the predators were also reintroduced by African Parks in 2012, years after being poached out.

In Liwonde, years of human-wildlife conflict and poaching eradicated resident predator populations, but, before bringing predators back, African Parks overhauled law enforcement to secure the park, constructed a robust perimeter fence, removed thousands of snare traps, established rigorous ranger patrols, and worked with local communities to prevent poaching and human-wildlife conflict.

The latest translocation marks the return of an iconic predator to Liwonde but also represents a new chapter for Majete Wildlife Reserve. In addition to the seven lions sent to Liwonde from South Africa, five lions were introduced into Majete, bringing the reserve’s population up to 17 while ensuring greater genetic diversity. The new arrivals, fitted with tracking collars to facilitate daily monitoring, were released on Wednesday August 15th into the wider park from enclosed bomas which supported their adjustment and social bonding.

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