Making use of finally proper internet connection I have at home, another post on the loveliest animals in the world (lions, obviously). This time the post will refer mostly to Ngamo Realease Site but first – what the hell is this about?

Reason 1: lions are in extreme decline.

Historically, the modern lion was distributed throughout the Mediterranean, the Near & Middle East as far as India, and all of Africa.  They were eliminated from their last European strongholds in Greece by 100 A.D. but survived until the 12th century in Palestine and the 20th century in Syria, Iran and Iraq. The last reliable sighting of lion in Iran was in 1941.

The Asiatic lion subspecies now only exists as a population of around 400 in and around the Gir Forest of north western India.

In Africa, lions were extinct in Tunisia in 1891 and in Algeria in 1893. The last “Barbary lion” of northern Africa was shot in 1920 although they may have survived in the High Atlas Mountains until the 1940s.  The last wild “Cape lion” of South Africa was shot in 1850.

Reduced numbers of lions are still present north of South Africa and Namibia and south of the equator.  North of the equator they are found in a narrow belt south of the Sahara desert on the western side and extending further south to link with the southern hemisphere population on the eastern side of the continent.

Myers (1975) wrote, “Since 1950, [lion] numbers may well have been cut in half, perhaps to as low as 200,000 in all or even less”. Later, Myers (1984) wrote, “In light of evidence from all the main countries of its range, the lion has been undergoing decline in both range and numbers, often an accelerating decline, during the past two decades”. In the early 1990s, IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group members made educated “guesstimates” of 30,000 to 100,000 for the African lion population.

All taken from Lion Alert website, have a look for more info: http://www.lionalert.org/page/view/page/historical-status-of-lions 

Reason 2: all current, ongoing rehabilitation projects do not meet the high demand for more lions in the wild. Estimates are now appealing – up to roughly 36,000 individuals. Lion that once roamed all over Africa, and many parts of Asia, is now limited to a few National Parks, etc. Kenya admitted that with current decrease levels they will have no lions in 20 years. And you know what – Lion King was based in Kenya. What the hell happened?
Relocation of existing lions is not enough – there is simply not enough animals in the wild to do this. And taking half a successful pride and sending them somewhere else results in having two medium-successful prides. This is not a mean!

Reason 3: it is all our fault. Destroying natural habitat, lion-human conflict, poaching, hunting… all these. In some places it is easier to buy a lion claw souvenir than stupid sun-screen! And out of 10 human-lion conflicts, 9 are fatal for the lions. We’re dangerous, and apparently unstoppable.

All looks very gloomy for the lion, doesn’t it? But fortunately, there are still people that want to change it. And that’s where ALERT comes in place.

The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is dedicated to the facilitation and promotion of sound conservation and management plans for the African lion (Panthera leo).  By means of a responsible development approach we aim to realize the species’ potential to provide substantial social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits.

Sounds mysterious, but the plan is: produce wild lions.

This is not easy – wild lion is defined by ‘hunting for itself’, ‘being taught to hunt by its power’, ‘living in a sustainable pride’ ‘having natural human avoidance’, etc. So breeding cubs and letting them go is not a valid method. It will result in having more dead lions, as they will not be afraid of humans and won’t fend for themselves. And this is where action comes in place. ALERT, that is.

ALERT has developed a 4 stage rehabilitation plan.

STAGE 1: breed lions, take them from their mothers, and expose them. If they would stay with their mothers in the enclosures, they would grow up afraid of the world. Humans thus replace the pride for the cubs, taking them for walks and giving them every mean to mature and learn about the world. These lions start to hunt naturally – their instincts are thousands of times stronger than ours (you can never tame a lion). By the age of 18 months, they are too big to walk them. So they are exposed to the night – their natural hunting environment. They follow a vehicle until they see game – and chase begins. If successful – wonderful. During all their lives they are carefully monitored – the aim is to have their CVs available for further stages.

STAGE 2: All cub data is being looked at, and a ‘perfect pride’ is formed – strong, good-father male with perfect genes, some hunter females, some mother females, dominant female to keep everything going… And the pride, after some bonding period, is released into a 5000 acre area, where they have to hunt for themselves and where there is no human contact. Currently, stage 2 lions of Ngamo Release site are happily caring after 5 cubs – cubs which when they will grow up, will be fully wild lions.

STAGE 3: Basically same as stage 2, but bigger, 10000 acre area plus the presence of competitive species. In stage 3 all the human-bred lions will die natural death. Their offspring will form a pride (plus additions from other release sites, to avoid inbreeding)

STAGE 4: Hakuna Matata – and release into the wild.

 

And many critics it has, ALERT is successful. I have seen it, and here is my proof.

Cub with its mother

Milo, the head of the pride (or at least he so thinks)

happy family (part of it)

dinner time 🙂

mischief makers (3/4)

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