Africa’s secret lions

HR-Ghostly-night-time-image-of-the-first-lion-ever-photographed-in-Alatash-(c)-Hans-Bauer-and-WildCRUFifty years since the release of the iconic film Born Free, the Born Free Foundation’s 2016 Year of the Lion received some good news

The news came from a remote corner of north-west Ethiopia. A small expedition, jointly organised by the international wildlife charity and Oxford University’s WildCRU* department and led by Dutch lion biologist and lion expert Dr Hans Bauer, investigated rumours that a ‘hidden’ population of lions existed in the newly established Alatash National Park.

Alatash was thought to have lost all its lions over a hundred years ago, due to human hunting and habitat destruction. But reports of lion sightings encouraged the team to look for footprints, and set up ‘camera traps’ and loudspeakers broadcasting lion calls, encouraging lions to respond. While looking for suitable trees in a dry riverbed to attach cameras, Bauer came across lion footprints. “It was the eureka moment,” he said, “at last we could be sure there really were lions in the area.”

The team interviewed local people, who confirmed they regularly see signs of lions and the next night they were caught on camera for the first time ever. Alatash is adjacent to the larger Dinder National Park in Sudan and Bauer calculates there may be at least a hundred lions in the entire area, in small prides of three to four individuals. Conservation biologists have had to revise the lion distribution map many times, deleting one population after the other, so it is a joy to be able to add a dot to the map!

Alatash was recently made a National Park by the Ethiopian government, and with protected areas on both sides of the border, these lions are safeguarded from hunters and relatively safe, although suitable prey is sparse. By supporting Bauer’s conservation work in the Horn, Central and West Africa, Born Free is helping protect little-known lion populations. With additional financial support the charity can monitor emerging threats and help government agencies to secure their survival.

Fast facts:
• A lion’s roar can be heard five miles away.
• Lions can see five times better than humans in the dark.
• A lion can hear prey over a mile away.

Help KQ and the Born Free Foundation to safeguard the world’s wildlife by placing any loose or unwanted change in the envelopes provided on board and hand to a member of the cabin crew. The money received will make a huge difference and help us in our fight to ensure a future for the planet’s iconic wildlife. Thank you!