Update on the lions of Dinder-Alatash
Last year, an expedition led by WildCRU’s Hans Bauer ‘discovered’ a lion population (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35460573) in a transboundary ecosystem with two National Parks, Dinder (Sudan) and Alatash (Ethiopia). Those lions had been protected by authorities and communities for a long time; they simply went unnoticed by the international community because the area is remote and hardly ever visited. This year, with further support from the BornFree Foundation, Hans went back with new local partners for a more intensive study, and returned with more surprises: ‘we thought we knew all the remaining intact Sudan savannahs, but here was a hidden biodiversity treasure island’. As they present the report, second author Dr. Ameer Awad of the Sudan Wildlife Research Centre commented: ‘we have been doing studies for a long time, but due to lack of international collaboration most of the work remains unpublished and inaccessible; hopefully this report will contribute to better information sharing’.
The team used extensive camera trapping but didn’t get enough observations to calculate lion density. However, it did offer a better view of species diversity, leading to updated species lists for the ecosystem. Based on the estimated abundance of prey, the area could host around 200 lions of the endangered northern subspecies, and the team is already planning to use a different census method next year. Additional studies should be conducted on other species; the expedition found the Heuglin’s gazelle that is rarely observed elsewhere and could now be endemic to Dinder NP. And while the leopard is considered extinct in Dinder NP, camera traps filmed two of them on the Ethiopian side. Although unlikely, an aerial survey should investigate if any elephants, Tora hartebeest and Tiang remain. The report stressed the need for transboundary cooperation between Sudan and Ethiopia to boost viability of prey and lion populations, and facilitate recolonization of species on either side of the border from the side where they still occur; the gazelle from Dinder to Alatash and the leopard from Alatash to Dinder.