African lions have declined drastically over the years, but the discovery of a small population of lions in Ethiopia's Altash National Park is an encouraging sign.
Researchers traveling to remote national parks in Ethiopia have found a previously unknown population of iconic African lions, which is an indication that the animal may be more widespread than estimated.
The existence of a small number of ‘lost’ lions has been confirmed by Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife charity, which supported the expedition as well.
Lions were discovered in Alatash National Park, an Ethiopian region bordering Sudanese Dinder National Park and their number are estimated up to 54. But researchers suspect that both these parks could hold around 200 lions.
“Lions are definitely present in Alatash National Park and in Dinder National Park.” Dr Hans Bauer, a conservationist from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit and leader of the expedition said in a statement.
Altash is a remote region of Ethiopia which is visited by very few people. Though for centuries it was thought that lions are thriving there but it was the first time when the actual evidences of the existence of lions were detected by obtaining camera trap images of lions and identifying their tracks.
“Considering the relative ease with which lion signs were observed, it is likely that they are resident throughout Altash and Dinder,” said Bauer. “Due to limited surface water, prey densities are low and lion densities are likely to be low, we may conservatively assume a density in the range of one to two lions per 100 km2.”
“On a total surface area of about 10,000 km2, this would mean a population of 100-200 lions for the entire ecosystem, of which 27-54 would be in Altash.”
The African lions are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of Endangered Species since their population is declining drastically in much of Africa. Lion numbers have decreased by half since 1990s and are expected to decline by further half in the next few decades or so. Now, the amazing discovery of a small population of lions in Ethiopia is an encouraging sign indeed.
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“The confirmation that lions persist in this area is exciting news,” said Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free Foundation. “Now that the expedition is complete, the next step is to communicate with the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan and look at the needs for conservation in the area so that this previously undiscovered lion stronghold can be protected.”