Good news from Gabon: conservation efforts in Batéké Plateau National Park are rewarded with the return of an animal that had disappeared from the region.
When researchers began conducting wildlife surveys in the southeastern region of Gabon, their sensor-triggered cameras were more likely to capture images of poachers than big cats. Dr. Philipp Henschel, the Lion Program Survey Coordinator for the conservation organization Panthera, led surveys in 2001 and 2003, but found no evidence of lions. Illegal hunting, habitat loss and habitat degradation had caused lions to be considered “locally extinct.”
In 2002, the Batéké Plateau National Park was established to protect an ecosystem that’s made up of a patchwork of savannah and forest. It seems the conservations efforts are working. This past month, camera traps set for a chimpanzee study by the caught a glimpse of a lion roaming at night:
The chimpanzee study is being led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee and The Aspinall Foundation.
Following the discovery, Panthera teamed up with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, The Aspinall Foundation and Gabon’s National Park Authority to launch a new survey for lions. Last week, even clearer footage of a male lion was captured:
“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 in a statement about the finding.
It’s not yet clear if the lion migrated from a known population in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or if it is a survivor from the earlier population historically found in the area. According to Panthera, lions like this one may travel 300 to 400 kilometers (186 to 248 miles) from their place of birth. It’s also unclear if this lion is a solitary individual or if he’s part of a new breeding population. Hopefully, the new lion survey will help to make the picture clearer.
More data may also help spur lion conservation efforts in Gabon and neighboring countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.