Good news from Gabon: the King of the Jungle is back on the prowl. Conservation efforts in Batéké Plateau National Park have proved successful with sightings of a wild lion roaming.
It has been two decades since any lions were spotted in Gabon, it was thought the lion had disappeared from the region, so had thus been listed as ‘locally extinct’. Conservation researchers’ sensor-triggered cameras were more likely to capture images of poachers than big fauna.
The Batéké Plateau National Park was established in 2002 to protect an ecosystem that’s made up of a mixture of savannah and forest. It seems their conservation efforts are working well: this past month, camera traps set for a chimpanzee study caught a glimpse of a lion roaming at night. The young male lion taking a walk on the wild side was confirmed as “healthy-looking”.
“This footage is truly unexpected, and yet wonderful proof that life for the lions of Gabon and the region still remains a possibility,” said Dr. Henschel, of the Lion Program Survey Coordinator.
What’s particularly great about this news is that it can help spur lion conservation efforts in Gabon and neighboring countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. Lion populations have decreased dramatically, around 68% in only the past 50 years. The biggest threat to lions’ survival is habitat loss. Lion-habitable lands have vanished to about 75% in the same 50-year period. Lions are becoming 'locally extinct' across Africa at an alarming rate, but conservation programmes like this one in Gabon can be successful in bringing back charismatic megafauna.
This sad map shows where lions used to live (red) and where they remain today (blue). Now positively, Gabon can be coloured red on this map.
The return of lions to Gabon's Batéké marks a significant step to do everything humanly possible to encourage endangered species to return to the ancestral homelands which are their rightful place. If lions are indeed returning to Gabon it could be a major boon for the species, as the country is one biggest supporters of conservation on the continent. In 2002, the country set aside 10 percent of its landmass as protected areas, including 13 national parks.