Washington, D.C., February 1, 2016 -- For the first time, wildlife conservationists have confirmed that lions are living in a remote national park in Ethiopia, following a recent expedition supported by Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation. The discovery was made after an expedition into the heart of Alatash National Park in northwest Ethiopia, on the Ethiopia-Sudan border, led by Dr. Hans Bauer, a renowned lion conservationist working for Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). See the complete report here.
According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation, “The confirmation that lions persist in this area is exciting news. With lion numbers in steep decline across most of the African continent, the discovery of previously unconfirmed populations is hugely important—especially in Ethiopia, whose government is a significant conservation ally. We need to do all we can to protect these animals and the ecosystem on which they depend, along with all the other remaining lions across Africa, so we can reverse the declines and secure their future.”
In this groundbreaking discovery, Dr. Bauer and his team found original and undisputable evidence of lions in the region—successfully obtaining camera trap images of lions and identifying lion tracks. The team also concluded that lions were likely to exist in the larger, adjacent Dinder National Park across the border in Sudan.
Alatash is a huge region that very few people have visited. Though lions are thought to have been present there for centuries, and locals knew of their existence in the area, the international community was unaware. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) only considered Alatash a “possible range” for the species.
Dr. Bauer said, “Lions are definitely present in Alatash National Park and in Dinder National Park. Lion presence in Alatash has not previously been confirmed in meetings at the national or international level.”
“Considering the relative ease with which lion signs were observed, it is likely that they are resident throughout Alatash and Dinder. 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 Alatash,” he added.
The African lion is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with a declining trend throughout most of its range. Lion numbers are estimated to have declined 50%-75% since 1980 and the species only occupies 8% of its historic range across the continent. Roberts adds, “Lions were thought to be locally extinct in Sudan, so the new findings are encouraging. 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.”
The discovery comes as Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation have just announced Born Free’s Year of the Lion 2016 initiative and the 50th anniversary of the iconic film, Born Free.
The Born Free Foundation is a dynamic international wildlife charity devoted to compassionate conservation and animal welfare. Born Free takes action worldwide to protect threatened species and stop individual animal suffering. Born Free believes wildlife belongs in the wild and works to phase out zoos. The Foundation rescues animals from lives of misery in tiny cages and gives them lifetime care. Born Free protects lions, elephants, tigers, gorillas, wolves, polar bears, dolphins, marine turtles, and many more species in their natural habitats, working with local communities to help people and wildlife live together without conflict. The Foundation’s high-profile campaigns change public attitudes, persuade decision-makers, and get results. Every year, Born Free helps hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide. More at www.bornfree.org.uk.
Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation”—the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.