The world first Lion Rehabilitation Project – helping to address the seriously decreasing number of Lions in the Wild!
The world famous lion rehabilitation programme, which commenced in 2004 with the aim of restoring lion populations in Eastern and Southern Africa, has made amazing progress in the past year. The plight of the African lion has been headline news in recent months following the shooting of Cecil – possibly the oldest living lion in Africa – and this sad story has brought the problems facing these “Kings of the Jungle” to the fore once again. Although as recently as 1975 more than 200,000 lions roamed the African continent, statistics from 2012 showed an 84% decline in the lion population in less than 40 years and there is evidence that some lion populations that existed in 2002 are now extinct. The good news is that there are now three lion conservation projects working hard to raise captive-bred lion cubs that can be released back into the wild. The focus of each of these projects – in Zimbabwe (Central Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls) and Zambia (Livingstone)– is slightly different but each contributes to a three stage programme which is proving to be very successful – and can be even more so with the help of more volunteers!
The first stage – the pre-release stage – is where cubs are born to captive-bred mothers and remain in her care for the first three weeks of their lives. The mothers do not have the skills to teach the cubs how to survive in the wild and so they are assigned to a handler who helps to develop their knowledge and confidence so that they can hunt and fend for themselves. The cubs are not bottle fed as is so often the misconception as the development of their natural instincts is priority. Volunteers, though, do work very closely with the young lions; they help to make toys to stimulate their behaviours and in particular all enjoy walking alongside the lions in the African bush on a daily basis as the cubs learn to stalk their prey. All volunteers get involved in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the project including the lion walks and vital research, as well as general conservation duties and the care of other animals on the Reserve.
Stages two and three – the release stages – provide opportunities for the lions to develop a natural pride social system in semi-wild conditions where there are sufficient prey species to hunt. Progress is closely monitored although all human contact and influence is removed. So far two prides have been successfully released into fenced wild areas and these prides are already having wild-born cubs of their own. This is a really exciting development and volunteers are invited to join this this ground-breaking programme and see the developments for themselves. Why not get in touch with Amanzi Travel (www.amanzitravel.co.uk) and make 2016 the year that YOU begin to make a difference to the plight of the lions in Africa!
Check out the Headquarters of the Lion Rehabilitation Project near Gweru