Story at a glance…
West African lions are slowly growing in number in the massive Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal.
Panthera’s conservation efforts is creating the only growing population of West African lions, a subspecies at high risk of extinction.
Poaching from poor villages, meat traders, criminal gangs, and terrorist cells threaten the ultra-rare cat across the region.
Despite being the second-largest national park in West Africa at 9,000 square kilometers, or equal to the size of Yellowstone, only 30 to 40 of the maybe-less-than 400 West African lions on earth live in Senegal’s Niokolo Koba National Park.
Now, a historic first-time capture of 6 adult lions has allowed conservationists to attach GPS collars to them, in order to provide important data on their home ranges, and hunting grounds.
The project is a support effort of Senegal’s Parks Department (DNP) organized by the conservation NGO Panthera, a world leader in the conservation of wildcats both big and small. Their on-the-ground work has led to a doubling in the number of lions in the park, from 10-15 to as many as 40, over the last ten years.
“Some call it the West African lion, and genetically it is distinct from those in east and southern Africa, but so are those from the Sahelian belt north of the Congo Basin,” explains Dr. Philip Henschel, Panthera West and Central Africa Regional Director. “The West African lions are part of this Northern lion subspecies, as are the extinct Barbary lions that used to populate the Atlas Mountains, as are the remaining lions in India”.
“Of the 20,000 lions remaining in the world today, only about 10% are part of the Northern lion subspecies”.
Recently, under cover of darkness, rangers from the DNP and Panthera biologists tracked lions in the park for three months during 2021 and 2022, luring them close enough for a tranquilizing dart. Among their successfully-collared targets were two of the resident pride leaders, a female in prime breeding years, and a juvenile who would have certainly died from extensive porcupine quill wounds had the team not stumbled upon her.