Lion Conservation in West, Central and Horn of Africa
Dr Hans Bauer coordinates WildCRU’s West, Central and Horn of Africa Lion Project, undertaking research on the conservation of the threatened lion subspecies Panthera leo leo. The conservation status of these lions is precarious, with smaller numbers, lower densities and larger declines, compared to the subspecies Panthera leo melanochaita found in eastern and southern Africa. The project engages stakeholders with diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, including governmental staff, international NGOs, local communities, park managers and researchers.
At the turn of the century, very little was known about the distribution of these lions. Our work, together with that of our collaborators and other institutions, has helped identify and characterise the main lion populations and the associated threats. The project initially focused on support to several countries to develop National Lion Conservation Action Plans (i.e., Senegal, Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia and a regional action plan for the WAP-complex in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger). Once the strategies and plans were in place, our focus shifted to implementation.
Major gaps remain in Ethiopia and research will continue to focus on mapping out the main populations, with support from various donors, including Leipzig Zoo. In Benin, with support from the National Geographic Big Cat Initiative, we have initiated and supported a Lion Guards program since 2014. In Cameroon, with US Fish and Wildlife funding, we organised Children’s Bush camps and the first comprehensive large carnivore survey. More recently, we started working in the Dinder-Alatash-Bejimiz Transboundary Ecosystem, on the border of Sudan and Ethiopia, with support from the Born Free Foundation and the Lion Recovery Fund. In all these cases, we work closely with the national wildlife authorities. Our aim is to develop capacity at local research institutions, management institutions and Non-Government Organisations, to design and implement lion conservation projects that are aligned with strategies for biodiversity and human development.
Transboundary conservation and local capacity building are crucial cross-cutting themes for all these projects. As a spinoff from this project, we have been leading the IUCN Lion Red List assessment and have been involved in global policy dialogue on lion conservation.
Our lion conservation project operates in close collaboration with the IUCN Cat Specialist Group.
June 2018 Dinder, a forgotten corner of African wilderness
October 2017 Update on the lions of Dinder-Alatash
February 2016 WildCRU researchers discover new Ethiopian lion population