TKPP: Transboundary and landscape conservation of lions

Fragmentation of natural habitat and isolation of populations is one of the biggest challenges faced by conservationists. It is a particularly damaging process for wild species that range widely, such as carnivores. This component of the project seeks to gain an understanding of the potential for the habitat between Hwange National Park and protected areas to the west of the park in eastern Botswana to function as a habitat corridor for lions and other wildlife. This has been undertaken by two teams, one in each country. Using this information we hope to motivate conservationists, communities and governments to take steps to protect these areas and thus the vital connectivity between important regional protected areas.

In Zimbabwe, since 2010, we have been carrying out extensive spoor surveys along set routes in the protected areas and surrounding forestry, hunting area and communal land and have simultaneously carried out camera trap surveys. To assess carnivore occupancy in the Botswana component of the project we have been undertaking spoor surveys across northern and northeastern Botswana covering more than 1600 km since 2013. We also monitor how regularly lions cross the international border between Botswana and Zimbabwe, and thus assess connectivity between lion populations, by tracking prides in the corridor area. We track prides by fitting individuals with GPS satellite collars which collect a GPS location every 2 hours and transmit these data via the Irridium Satellite system allowing the research team to follow and record the lion’s movements.

Matetsi lion

A camera trap image of a male lion from a survey in Matetsi, Zimbabwe